The Californian: SVMH board member calls for mediator to settle labor dispute

NewsJune 23, 2011

The Californian:

As Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System officials moved to block striking hospital workers from returning to work on Wednesday, an SVMH board member made a public call to bring in an outside mediator to help bring a resolution to the escalating dispute.

SVMH board member Patrick Egan said he has sat in on three negotiating sessions recently and was shocked by the level of animosity displayed by both National Union of Healthcare Workers union representatives and by SVMH negotiators themselves.

“The tension in that room was palpable. There simply is no trust amongst the parties and that has to change if we’re ever going to see any movement toward the middle,” Egan said in an interview with The Californian. “At this point I would like to see a mediator brought in to see if we can at least get the parties talking again.”

And despite Egan’s desire to allow NUHW strikers from Tuesday’s walk-out return and undergo in-service training for two days while replacement workers finish their three-day contracts with SVMH, hospital management chose to bar the workers from returning to their posts on Wednesday.

Relations between SVMH and the union, which represents about 800 workers, is so strained that the parties cannot even agree whether Wednesday’s action to block striking workers from returning to the job indeed fits the definition of a lockout.

Lowell Johnson, SVMH’s interim chief executive officer said unequivocally Wednesday that management is not “locking out” the striking employees.

Union member Cynthia Barajas, however, begged to differ.

“This is retaliation, plain and simple,” said Barajas, a worker in the SVMH laboratory, in a statement furnished to the media by the union. “Management has known for ten days we’d be striking for 24 hours. They’ve had plenty of time to prepare to transition workers back to their jobs the following day. Instead, they chose to orchestrate a punitive lockout, to try to show us who’s boss.”

Read the full article in The Californian.