Nurses union will abide by judge’s no-strike order

Leaders of the state’s powerful nurses union said Wednesday that their members will respect a judge’s order that bars them from striking at University of California hospitals. At the same time, the union plans to rally Thursday at the hospitals and student health centers, as well as two private facilities in the Los Angeles area.

The nurses plan to strike came months after contract negotiations broke down last year over their demand that hospital officials increase staffing at the five hospitals and four student centers.

“Our No. 1 priority remains correcting the chronic staffing issues at University of California medical centers, which we have been unable to resolve,” said Beth Kean, a negotiator with the California Nurses Assn.

A California judge Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order barring more than 10,000 nurses from striking at the UC hospitals and student health centers. In all about 12,000 nurses in the state had planned to join in the walkout.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch said a strike would be contrary to the public interest and might break the law. The order was requested by the California Public Employment Relations Board, a state regulatory agency.

“We’re glad there’s not going to be a one-day strike,” UC spokesman Steve Montiel said. “We always support the right of people to express themselves.”

Union leaders and university officials are scheduled to return to court June 18 for a hearing on the temporary restraining order.

In preparation for the possible strike, UC officials paid staffing agencies to fly in thousands of backup nurses this week at an estimated cost of $10 million to $15 million, Montiel said.

He said the injunction would allow officials to scale back the effort, although he did not have new cost figures Wednesday for the contingency plan. When nurses threatened to strike at the UC hospitals in 2005, a judge issued a similar order that barred them, and the university health system’s contingency plan cost $7 million to $8 million, Montiel said.

Nurses had planned to strike at the UC hospitals, as well as at Marina del Rey Hospital, Citrus Valley Medical Center and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centerin San Pedro, Jacobs said.

The injunction does not bar nurses from striking at the three private hospitals, but union officials said Wednesday that they were in bargaining talks with officials from Marina del Rey Hospital and planned to rally at the other two hospitals Thursday.

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