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Thousands Strike at S.F. Hospitals

August 2, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Thousands of union workers at eight San Francisco Bay area hospitals started a two-day strike Wednesday after the latest round of contract talks failed.

The 3,500 striking technicians, licensed vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, housekeepers and clerks, who also walked out for one day last month, want to send a message to management that ``they are serious about protecting patient care,″ said Christy Hawkins, a Service Employees International Union spokeswoman.

The union said it was unable to reach an agreement with Sutter Health, which operates five of the affected hospitals, and Catholic Healthcare West, which operates three.

Hospitals reported no disruptions in most services, with emergency rooms open and replacement workers adequately bridging staffing gaps. Most hospitals postponed elective surgeries prior to the strike.

``We are not turning any patients away,″ said Maggie Gerk, a spokeswoman for two affected hospitals. ``We are fully operational everything is running smoothly.″

Catholic Healthcare West had left the bargaining table Thursday, and Sutter left Tuesday night, Hawkins said. They are the region’s largest hospital companies.

The workers struck at 6 a.m. Wednesday and plan to walk picket lines for 48 hours.

About 4,000 union members staged a one-day strike July 6 at the eight hospitals, as well as two independents, forcing many facilities to transfer patients, hire replacement workers and cancel elective surgeries.

The sticking point for the union is staffing, Hawkins said. Union members say they want a voice in determining staffing levels, which they say are too low.

Spokesman Robert Polzoni said Catholic Healthcare West had offered a 12 percent raise over four years to the workers. He said their demands amount to a 24 percent raise the first year, which he called ``outrageous.″ Management also called the union’s desire for lifetime job guarantees unrealistic.

Neither side knew when talks would resume.

___

On the Net:

Union site: http://www.seiu.org

Hospital sites: http://www.sutterhealth.com and http://www.chwhealth.com

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