Central Peninsula General Hospital nurses' 3 1/2-year contracts expire today at the close of business. But negotiations already have been set to extend beyond that deadline with help set to come from the federal government to reach an agreement.
"We were unable to reach a settlement," said Dianne O'Connell, the labor program director for the Alaska Nurses Association, the organization representing the 90 full- and part-time CPGH nurses.
O'Connell said both sides mutually agreed in a meeting Oct. 10 to request a federal mediator through the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Service. That person has been appointed, but will not be available until Nov. 21 and 22.
Bonnie Nichols, spokesperson for CPGH Inc., the nonprofit organization that manages the borough-owned hospital, said hospital administration is optimistic of the outcome of mediation.
"We're certainly hopeful that (mediation) will bring about a resolution to the collective bargaining," she said.
As part of a nondisclosure agreement ironed out at the beginning of the negotiations, neither side of the current bargaining process has been able to discuss the issues on the table. But O'Connell indicated earlier that nurses' current pay at the Soldotna hospital is not comparable to what nurses at Providence Regional Medical Center in Anchorage negotiated for themselves earlier this year.
Under their new contract, beginning nurses at Providence start at $20.86 per hour, topping out at $31.90 after 20 years, with subsequent pay increases to take effect each year of their three-year deal. Under the current CPGH contract, nurses enter at $18.87 per hour and can make $29.60 after 25 years.
Should mediation prove unsuccessful, the earliest the nurses could give notice of a strike would be 10 days following mediation meetings.
"But nobody says we have to strike," O'Connell said. "A lot of things could happen -- like settling."
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