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VENTURA : Nurses Picket to Urge Contract Settlement

Nearly two dozen nurses marched outside the Ventura County Medical Center Monday afternoon carrying homemade placards urging county officials to settle contract talks that have dragged on since April.

Specifically, the nurses object to the county proposal that would order them to take off 100 hours a year without pay and change their schedules from six 12-hour shifts every two weeks to nine eight-hour workdays.

The shift change “would be equivalent to a 14% pay cut,” said Judith Overmyer, a nurse at the county medical center who serves as co-chair of the hospital’s chapter of the California Nurses Assn.

“We want negotiations to be pushed on,” Overmyer said. “We want to get along with this.”

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Negotiations have bogged down since county negotiators brought up issues such as the work shifts, merit pay, seniority and the proposed 100-hour-a-year furlough program, Overmyer said.

“Those areas are put on the table to give (the county) power over issues like salary,” she said. “It’s kind of an attempt to put the squeeze on nurses.”

Overmyer said nurses would forsake raises, but they cannot agree to other proposals made by county negotiators such as the shift change.

A Ventura County Superior Court judge last month refused to reinstate the 12-hour shifts for those nurses whose schedules already were changed.

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County Personnel Director Ronald Komers denied allegations from nurses that county officials are stalling the talks.

“We have been and are continuing to negotiate,” he said. But “we are not going to comment on any specifics. The place to discuss specifics is at the bargaining table, and we’re prepared to do that.”

Intensive care unit nurse Don Lake said nurses have garnered the support of many hospital physicians. “They may not be out here picketing, but there are quite a few (inside) wearing ribbons in support of the nurses,” he said.

More talks are scheduled today, Overmyer said.


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