On Eve of Nurses’ Strike, County Cites Recent Double-Digit Wage Increases

Santa Clara County reported that the Registered Nurses Professional Association rejected a mediator’s proposal hours before the union announced a three-day strike at county healthcare facilities, beginning tomorrow.

The county said it is working to protect patients and minimize disruptions to health services during the work stoppage by nurses. “The county is hopeful that [the nurses union] will return to the table to reach a fair and sustainable contract for both sides and work together to continue providing quality healthcare for the community,” the county said in a statement over the weekend.

The three-day strike is scheduled to begin at 4:59am, tomorrow, April 2 and end at 6:59am. on Friday, April 5.

The union Monday evening said it was the first-ever strike by the Registered Nurses Professional Association, and predicted it will have “a major impact on Santa Clara County hospitals and clinics by shutting down most non-emergency and outpatient services.” Emergency and essential services will be available during the strike.

“The county health system has some of the most talented and dedicated nurses in all of healthcare. They deserve fair compensation, and that is why we are paying and continue to offer among the most competitive salaries and benefits in the Bay Area,” said Santa Clara County Executive James R. Williams. He said he is hopeful the nurses union will return to the bargaining table.

More than 3,750 nurses in the Santa Clara County Health and Hospital System – represented by the Registered Nurses Professional Association – are currently in contract negotiations with the county. Their last contract expired five months ago, on Oct.29. In their negotiations, nurses said they called out issues such as short staffing and below-standard nurse-to-patient ratios.

“The County’s labor contracts must ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the critical services we provide the community and allow for fair negotiations and compensation for the many exceptional public employees represented by other labor unions,” Williams said in a statement.

The county said it will provide regular updates to the community on any potential disruptions to patient care.

Along with other local government agencies, the county said it faces a national and statewide backdrop of dwindling resources and a significant structural budget deficit, and is currently projecting a $250 million deficit for the next fiscal year.

Countering the union’s claims of low pay, the county reported that nurses represented by the union have received nearly 30% in compounded salary increases, and approximately 42% in compounded salary increases for per diem clinical nurses

In the past fiscal year, the county said its nurses have received approximately 42% in compounded salary increases, including a 13.3% wage increase.

The average annual pay for a full-time union-represented member is $259,103 in wages, including average overtime and differential pays. The average total compensation including wages and benefits is $326,542, according to the county.

The county also disagreed with union claims about turnover and vacancy rates.

In 2022, the county’s turnover rate for registered nurses was 8.1%, compared to the national turnover rate of 18.2%.

The county reported that clinical nurses’ vacancy rate is 8.4%, which is approximately one-half the national vacancy rate.

The county said it has already reached tentative agreements with the nurses on many key terms and priority areas for our nurses, including workplace safety, and announced a website has been established for updates on the current negotiations.

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

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