Hospitals not budging on latest CRONA proposal

June 3, 2010, 1:06 a.m.

A week after the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) proposed a cooling-off period to settle the ongoing contract stalemate with Stanford Hospital & Clinics (SHC) and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH), the hospitals have not budged on their final contract offer.

Last Thursday, CRONA urged the hospitals to engage in a cooling-off interval for contract bargaining from now until Dec. 31. The union is still protesting reduced medical benefits and nurse demotions that would occur under the hospitals’ “last, best and final offer.”

Peter Nussbaum, the lead attorney for CRONA, said that under the latest proposal, “the parties would agree that during the next six months…the employees will continue to work under the old contract and we’ll continue to bargain.” Wage increases included in the “last, best and final offer” would not be put into effect during the cool-off period.

“This would give the parties more time to be able to sit down, work something out, maybe enlist the assistance of a third party to help them,” Nussbaum added. “That’s what parties do when they cannot reach a contract.”

In May, the hospitals rejected a different counterproposal and second proposition to resolve the contract dispute through interest arbitration.

For the past two months, the hospitals and their nurses have been operating under the prior contract, which expired at the end of March. Nussbaum indicated that this strategy “can go on until something happens.”

That “something,” he said, would either be an amicable resolution if “the parties reach a new agreement” or continued tensions if “the hospitals try to unilaterally implement their old agreement.”

CRONA has argued that the latter approach would be illegal; unilateral implementation is only legitimate if the parties have reach an impasse, after bargaining in good faith has failed to draw out a resolution.

“We think it’s clear that the hospitals have not met that duty,” Nussbaum said.

The hospitals, however, have not expressed any signs of interest in the cooling-off proposal. In an e-mail to The Daily, LPCH spokesman Robert Dicks said the hospitals “have no comment” on CRONA’s latest suggestions.

“Our nurses deserve the benefits of the proposed contracts,” Dicks said, referring to the “last, best and final offer.”

“We stand by our offers and urge CRONA to ratify a new contract so that we can move forward together and continue providing the very best care to our patients,” he said.

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