A strike could be imminent, based on the outcome of the upcoming mediation between the workers at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and the administration. More than a year of negotiations and hard feelings, followed by a one-day strike and two-day lockout have led to the need for a third party to intervene.
The two sides are due to meet on two separate dates toward the end of July. A state-appointed mediator will oversee the meetings, but if this process fails the National Union of Healthcare Workers have already voted for a three day strike.
The workers held their first strike on May 17th. Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital was forced to hire replacement workers that had to be flown in from around the country – something that cost the hospital $1.6 million. Anyone missing their shift due to the strike then lost the following two days of work because the hospital had a three day contract with the replacements.
According to hospital administration, they were disappointed the union requested a strike, even though they hadn’t begun mediation.
The union represents 700 workers with 90 different job classifications, including certified nursing assistants, pharmacists, and maintenance workers. The union wants hospital administration to remove language from the contract that allows for subcontracting, something the union sees as a threat to jobs.
According to the administration, there would be flexibility when it came to subcontract tasks, and it would not involve positions that are currently unionized. The hospital also claims the contract from last year was based on contracts from the 1980s and that updates are necessary at this point.