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Judge extends order barring UC nurses from striking

June 18, 2010 |  5:20 pm

A judge Friday extended a temporary restraining order barring thousands of nurses from striking at University of California hospitals and student health centers while contract negotiations proceed.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch had issued a temporary restraining order June 8, saying that 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 that handles public employee relations.

On Friday, Busch extended the order while the union negotiates its contract, due to expire at the end of September.

“We’re really glad we’re going to be able to stop the strike threat and be able to sit down and negotiate in good faith,” said Lynn Tierney, a spokeswoman for the university system.

Officials for the California Nurses Assn., which had threatened the strike, said they would abide by the order as they did when a judge issued a similar order to prevent them from striking in 2005.

The nearly 12,000 nurses had planned to strike June 10 at the university’s five hospitals after contract negotiations broke down in August over their demand that hospital officials increase staffing.

They argued that the hospitals put patients at risk by forcing nurses to work during their breaks and cover for one another.

“The fight isn’t over,” said Geri Jenkins, a retired registered nurse and union official. “We will continue to push the UC to do the moral and ethical thing, which is to staff adequately so the nurses can take care of their patients.”

Under the current contract, University of California nurses would receive a 2% raise in September instead of the standard 4% to 5% raise common at other large health systems, a union negotiator said.

The base pay for most University of California nurses is about $74,328, according to a union spokeswoman, but nurses with more experience or more demanding jobs can earn more than $122,000. All nurses get health benefits and pensions.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske