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Union reaches tentative deal with St. Rose Dominican workers

The Service Employees International Union forged a tentative contract Thursday for 1,800 employees of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, but the deal won’t derail a rival union’s organizing efforts.

The contract calls for wage increases of 38.2 percent over four years, including gains of up to 20 percent in the first year. Also in the pact are reductions of as much as $3,400 in annual insurance premiums, improvements in the three-hospital system’s pension plan for nurses and “the strongest staffing protections outside of California,” SEIU representatives said.

A 100-member SEIU bargaining group had been negotiating with St. Rose managers since February.

“Once again, SEIU Nevada members are leading the way to set the highest standards not only for St. Rose, but for all other hospitals to follow,” said Krystal DelMonico, a St. Rose Siena nurse and bargaining-team member, in a statement. “St. Rose nurses and other hospital employees were the first to establish safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios two years ago, and now, through tenacity and a lot of hard work, we’ve raised the bar even higher.”

Added St. Rose de Lima nurse Rhonda Rogers: “This new agreement we settled is proof that SEIU is the only real voice for nurses in Nevada.”

But members of a competing union claim a strong voice for nurses as well.

Representatives of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee said they’ve struck agreements with better perks and protections at more than 20 other hospitals belonging to St. Rose parent Catholic Healthcare West.

“We don’t think it’s a bad contract, but what we do know is that it’s not up to the standards we’ve established in the CHW chain,” said Fernando Losada, collective bargaining director of the National Nurses Organizing Committee. “We consider it unsatisfactory from the point of view of the St. Rose nurses we believe we represent.”

Jill Furillo, director of the Nevada chapter of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, was traveling Thursday afternoon and was unable to comment on the benefits the union could negotiate for nurses at St. Rose.

The union began efforts in late 2007 to woo St. Rose’s 1,100 nurses away from the SEIU.

The CNA fell three votes short in a May election the nurses held to determine which union would negotiate for them.

The CNA contested several votes from the election, and the SEIU asked the National Labor Relations Board for a runoff election.

The board hasn’t scheduled the second election.

Losada said the CNA would “go back to the table to press for more” concessions if the group wins a new election.

“We don’t want nurses to be subject to what we consider a second-class agreement within the CHW system,” he said.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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