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County of Santa Clara Negotiations with Registered Nurses Professional Association (RNPA)

Frequently Asked Questions

The key issues that remain unresolved between the parties are overall wage increases, and the temporary assignment of staff from one location to another to better align with patient volumes and needs across the County’s hospitals and clinics.

The County and RNPA have already reached tentative agreements on many key terms and priority areas for our nurses, including on workplace safety.

The County agrees with RNPA that our nurses and healthcare professionals are an integral part of our community’s safety net and deserve fair compensation. That is why the County is paying and continue to offer among the most competitive salaries and benefits in the Bay Area.

Since 2020, RNPA-represented nurses have received nearly 30% in compounded salary increases. Per diem clinical nurses have received about 42% in compounded salary increases. Just last fiscal year, the vast majority of nurses received a 13.3% wage increase. More information about RNPA-represented employee compensation history is available here.

The County of Santa Clara offers one of the most competitive salary and benefits package for Clinical Nurses in the Bay Area. The average annual pay for a full-time RNPA-represented member is $259,103 in wages, including average overtime and differential pays.  The average total compensation including wages and benefits is $326,542. More information about RNPA-represented employee average compensation is available here.

Along with other local government agencies, the County faces a national and statewide backdrop of dwindling resources and a significant structural budget deficit. The County is currently projecting a $250 million structural (ongoing) deficit for the next fiscal year (FY 2024-25). 

As the main provider of the community’s safety net services, the County must be responsible with our resources to protect critical services for the community. The County’s labor contracts must ensure the long-term sustainability and allow for fair negotiations with other labor unions and employees at the County.

One difficulty in running a healthcare system is responding to unpredictable patient volumes. Most hospitals’ standard practice for responding to this problem is scheduling extra nurses and then “calling off” some nurses from their shifts if they aren’t needed—requiring them to use a vacation day or go unpaid for that shift. 

Unlike almost all other healthcare systems, the County does not call off coded nurses for some of their shifts, allowing them to work even when patient volumes are lower. However, the County needs the ability to temporarily reassign nurses from a low-demand unit to a high-demand sister unit at a nearby County hospital or clinic, which ensures job stability for nurses and better patient care and safety. Under the Mediator’s Proposal that was rejected by RNPA, nurses would have various benefits and safeguards related to these temporary reassignments, including: 

  • Nurses would have full discretion to decline a temporary work location assignment and instead call off for the day and use applicable leave banks.
  • Nurses would only be assigned to units in which they have the necessary competencies and training. 
  • Nurses would not be required to report to a work location more than 20 miles from their regular work location. 
  • When starting their shift from a temporary work location, nurses would receive an additional $50 in compensation.

The County prioritizes employee safety and agrees with RNPA members that they deserve to feel safe and protected at work. We already reached a tentative agreement with the RNPA bargaining team on this topic. 

More information on the tentative agreement, signed by both parties in January, can be found here.

As required by law, Santa Clara Valley Healthcare (SCVH) maintains unit-specific nurse-to-patient ratios, and it maintains and adheres to a patient classification system that takes patient acuity into account. SCVH has proactive measures in place to help ensure compliant staffing ratios despite unpredictable and uncontrollable factors. These proactive measures include canceling non-essential activities, activating on-call lists, using managerial support for staffing needs, and transferring patients within the health system structure to balance workload. Despite unforeseen factors such as unexpected admissions or high staff absenteeism, SCVH remains committed to maintaining ratio compliance through proactive measures. 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which is responsible for enforcing state laws on nurse-to-patient ratios, has never penalized the County for a violation of these laws. Read more about the County’s compliance with Nurse-to-Patient Staffing Ratios here