El Camino Hospital announced Wednesday that it has reached a contract agreement with its nurses' union, ending months of contentious debate and preventing a disruptive strike by more than 1,200 employees.
The four-year contract, which was ratified by the union membership earlier this week, grants nurses a 3% annual raise for the next two years, followed by a 4% raise in 2021 and another 3% raise in 2022. The contract also includes a pay bump for tenured nurses working for up to 25 years at the hospital.
In a brief statement, officials said El Camino Health, which operates El Camino hospitals in Mountain View and Los Gatos, and the Professional Resource for Nurses (PRN) union "worked diligently" to reach an agreement that supports nurses and promotes high-quality patient care.
PRN representatives were not immediately available for comment.
"We greatly appreciate the contributions and commitment of our nurses and members of the bargaining team who worked to reach an agreement," according to the statement.
Negotiations over the new contract had been fraught with challenges dating back to May, when nurses said they'd reached an impasse and held a picketing demonstration, followed by a vote showing overwhelming support for authorizing a strike. Though PRN's leadership ultimately declined to call a strike, hospital officials say it's the closest El Camino has been to having its nurses walk out. A contingency plan was already underway to replace the vital staff in the event of a strike.
The breakthrough came after both parties agreed to go through a fact-finding process with a hired mediator, which provided a report with recommendations late last month. Proposals including the longer four-year contract came late in the negotiation process, well after PRN had declared impasse in June. Among the last-minute changes is the timing for nurses to receive the larger 4% raise, which hospital officials sought to delay until the final year of the contract.
During public demonstrations and at the hospital's board of directors meetings, nurses vented about having to work in increasingly difficult conditions while wages stagnate. Nurses also argued that the hospital was trying to short-change its nurses by cutting pay for night shift and per diem nurses -- a proposal that the hospital later walked back -- despite El Camino's strong financial position and annual budget surpluses exceeding $100 million.
Numerous other changes in the agreement include quality-of-life changes and pay increases for nurses who are on standby and must show up to work when requested, as well as nurses whose hours are canceled when patient loads are light.
"Limited" contract negotiations over benefits can begin mid-contract in early 2021, but no strikes and no lockouts are permitted through the life of the full contract.
The updated range of wages have yet to be posted publicly, but nurses in the 2018-19 year were paid an hourly wage ranging from $62.61 to $105.27 based on the type of nursing job.