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Nurses picket at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital

Union workers rally against changes proposed for how to resolve issues with SCV hospital

Posted: April 10, 2015 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 10, 2015 2:00 a.m.
Robbie Bailey pickets with other nurses and supporters near Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on the corner of McBean Parkway and Orchard Village on Thursday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze Robbie Bailey pickets with other nurses and supporters near Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on the corner of McBean Parkway and Orchard Village on Thursday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze
Robbie Bailey pickets with other nurses and supporters near Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on the corner of McBean Parkway and Orchard Village on Thursday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze
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As union nurses and officials at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital work to find common ground for a new contract, the biggest sticking point seems to have become how to resolve conflicts between the hospital and its employees.

At the heart of the dispute are proposed changes that would make it so disputes between nurses and the hospital would have to be resolved through arbitration, where a third party would help resolve the issue.

Members of the California Nurses Association union, however, say those changes erode their rights to take their issues to court, even in cases of alleged discrimination.

The hospital’s proposal makes it “mandatory that we go through the grievance process that the hospital has in its policy,” said Robbie Bailey, a union member at Henry Mayo.

That includes having to file a grievance within 10 days, Bailey said.

Bailey was one of about 15 nurses who had turned out as of early Thursday evening to wave signs reading “patients before profits” and “RNs demand safe staffing,” to cars driving by the hospital on McBean Parkway.

“This is a good hospital, but they need to treat the nurses with more respect,” Bailey said.

Officials at the hospital, though, say the practice is a common one and helps resolve disputes quicker.

“Arbitration seems to be faster, which I think is better for everyone,” said Mark Puleo, Henry Mayo’s vice president and chief human resources officer.

Puleo said it’s a more efficient way to handle disputes, often saving time and money for both parties, especially since courts in California tend to be too clogged for cases to move quickly.

Leslie Curtis, the union’s chief negotiator, said the proposed changes would also bar nurses from reporting violations to state or federal agencies and keep them from banding together on certain issues.

“Under this language, nurses could not form a class, they would only be able to fight the employer one nurse at a time,” she said Thursday.

Puleo, though, said binding arbitration would not keep nurses from filing complaints with state or federal agencies.

The hospital has also pushed to make it so nurses could have a choice whether or not to join the union, which is currently not the case, Puleo said.

Curtis characterized that as a leverage ploy to get the union to accept the arbitration demands.

The approximately 650 members of the nurses’ union at Henry Mayo have been working without a contract since Jan. 22.

About two months ago, union members at Henry Mayo voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of authorizing a strike.

While that doesn’t mean a strike is imminent, the vote does give the negotiators the authority to call a strike.

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