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El Camino management, nurses stalemated over bargaining agreement

The El Camino Hospital nurses union remains at odds with hospital management over a new labor agreement after talks stalled July 2. Negotiators on both sides are expected to meet again Thursday.

According to a statement Monday from Professional Resource for Nurses (PRN), "Camino Healthcare told the union unless PRN waives the nurses right to bargain, no agreement can be reached."

Camino Healthcare officials strongly denounced the statement that they deemed inaccurate. Joann Zimmerman, RN, vice president of patient care services, and Dr. Jerry Shefren, chief medical officer of Camino Healthcare, noted the union wants involvement in decisions that should be left to management.

"We have a long history of working collaboratively with the nurses at El Camino Hospital," Zimmerman said. "However, we cannot yield decision making authority to any union."

The labor agreement between Camino Healthcare and PRN expired May 22. Since then, the RNs at El Camino Hospital, the former Sunnyvale Medical Clinics and Shoreline Medical Group offices have been working without a contract. PRN has filed a 10-day notice of their intent to begin informational picketing Thursday at 4 p.m.

Patricia Briggs, chief negotiator for PRN, said the nurses want no wage increases for the next two years and proposed significant cuts in other compensation that include reductions in evening, night and weekend differentials.

Zimmerman said "Camino Healthcare has not accepted the union proposal for salary cuts in compensation because it would leave the overall salaries significantly above the salaries at the hospitals we compete with for patients, i.e. Stanford, O'Connor, Good Sam, and Kaiser."

"If management has such extensive unilateral power, the nurses will have no control over when they work, where they work or how they care for patients." Briggs said. "We want our hospital and clinics to survive, but we are not willing to make concessions that will adversely affect the quality of patient care."

"Quality of care for patients is not a union responsibility, but rather an overall hospital and community responsibility," Zimmerman said. "The management of Camino Healthcare has always and will continue to work collaboratively with all our employees to ensure quality care."

In other hospital news, Camino Healthcare announced that John Reiber, chief financial officer for Camino Healthcare, resigned from his position and will leave the hospital Aug. 2.

Reiber has worked for El Camino Hospital and Camino Healthcare for 12 years as director of finance and in 1987, chief financial officer.

"I am leaving for personal reasons that include spending more time with my family and taking care of my health," Reiber said.

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