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Nurses won't strike ó for now

Sunday, May 07, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Gregg Sherrard Blesch

Cook County nurses pulled back on a strike threat after their bargainers claimed progress Saturday.

But the threat stands.

The nurses failed to get what they wanted in all areas, said Fernando Losada, the Midwest director for their union, the National Nurses Organizing Committee.

Rising employee contributions toward benefits, for example, remain a hurdle to a new contract, Losada said.

"That's what's creating such a volatile, intense situation where we've got a hair trigger on the strike," he said.

The union represents 1,750 nurses working at Stroger, Provident and Oak Forest hospitals and the county's suburban clinics.

The parties agreed to talk again May 17, according to Chinta Strausberg, spokeswoman for Cook County Board President John Stroger.

"We continue to bargain in good faith, and we continue to make progress with the assistance of the federal mediator," Strausberg said, limiting her comments to a prepared statement.

The nurses, whose contract expired in November 2004, ditched the Illinois Nurses Association a year ago for the California-based NNOC, saying they wanted more aggressive representation.

In March they voted to authorize a strike if the county refused to meet their demands, including greater say in staffing levels and pay that's competitive with what nurses make at private hospitals.

Losada said the union made progress in those areas during 16 hours of talks Friday and Saturday. "We're talking, so (we made) the decision to continue that process."

Gregg Sherrard Blesch may be reached at gblesch@dailysouthtown.com or (708) 633-5962.



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