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Local Health Care Workers Plan Strike

Local hospital caregivers plan to participate in a one-day statewide strike this week to protest staffing conditions and alleged unfair labor practices, a union announced. Members of the union, also known as SEIU UHW, plan to conduct the strike from 6 a.m. on Dec. 3 to 6 a.m. on Dec. 4 at all Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA, hospitals in California. Among the hospitals are Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks and West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, which together have 985 members in the union, said SEIU UHW spokeswoman Jennifer Kelly. The union’s strikers include licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, housekeeping workers and staff members. The two hospitals’ registered nurses who are members of SEIU Local 121RN will not be holding a strike on Friday. They still have five days left of bargaining with the hospitals’ management from Dec. 6 through Dec. 10, said Aimee Barajas, spokeswoman for the local union. The caregivers are holding the strike following failed negotiations for a contract with the hospital system that includes higher staffing levels and higher pay and benefits. The union alleges that HCA management made changes to working conditions that put caregivers and patients at risk. Those include changes to staffing levels for certified nursing assistants, higher numbers of patients per caregiver, more demanding lifting requirements for housekeeping workers the removal of protective gear for caregivers dealing with isolated patients considered contagious, the union said. The union is also alleging that the hospital system’s management, including management at the two local hospitals, conducted unfair bargaining practices and engaged in employee intimidation. Beverly Gilmore, president and CEO of West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, denies that her management team has engaged in unfair practices or employee intimidation. She also said the alleged staff and policy changes have not taken place at her particular hospital, and that state-mandated nursing ratios are followed. Furthermore, the hospital has offered raises of 5.75 percent or higher over the three-year term of the contract, health insurance costs have remained the same and there has been no reduction in benefits, she added. She called the union the uncooperative party in the bargaining talks. “There hasn’t really been a discussion,” she said. “We made a proposal and then they walked away from the discussion. … (We) are very disappointed that the union broke off those talks. We would like to be at the table discussing our mutual interests.”

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