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Santa Clara Valley Healthcare Remains Open During Nurses Strike

The County has been working to minimize disruptions to health services during the strike today, April 2, through 6:59 a.m. on April 5

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. – The County of Santa Clara has been working to keep all critical services open to patients in the Santa Clara Valley Healthcare system during a three-day strike by the Registered Nurses Professional Association (RNPA). The three-day strike began at 4:59 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2 and is scheduled to end at 6:59 a.m. on Friday, April 5. 

The County is providing regular updates to the community on potential disruptions to patient care. Some non-urgent appointments may be postponed and affected patients have been directly contacted by their providers. 

“Our health system has been working tirelessly to ensure that patient care is minimally affected by the RNPA strike, especially access to emergency and critical care services,” said County Executive James R. Williams. “We continue to invite RNPA back to the table so that we can reach a fair and sustainable contract for both sides and work together to continue providing quality healthcare for the community.”

The County and RNPA have already reached tentative agreements on many key terms and priority areas for the nurses, including on workplace safety. 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.  RNPA leadership has not responded to requests from the County to schedule additional bargaining sessions to resolve these issues. 

“Healthcare professionals are part of the backbone of our safety net system and our nurses deserve fair and competitive compensation. That’s why the County has provided 30% to 42% wage increases for RNPA members since 2020,” Williams said. “During this round of negotiations, the County has offered RNPA the additional wage increases we can afford without further jeopardizing our financial stability and putting critical services for the community at risk.”

Most recently, after weeks of mediation with RNPA, a third-party mediator issued a proposal that outlined his view of a fair compromise on all outstanding issues in the negotiations. The mediator’s proposal called for, among other benefits for RNPA members, a 13.6% compounded increase to nurse base wages during the term of the contract. Unfortunately, the next day, RNPA rejected the mediator’s proposal and issued a strike notice. 

More information about where the County stands on negotiations is available here.

Key facts related to the County’s negotiations with RNPA: 

Salaries and Compensation

  • Since 2020, RNPA-represented nurses have received nearly 30% in compounded salary increases. Per diem clinical nurses have received approximately 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 current 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 per year. 
  • More information about RNPA-represented employee average compensation is available here.

Turnover and Vacancy Rates

  • In 2022, the County’s turnover rate for Registered Nurses (RNs) was 8.1%, which was significantly lower than the national turnover rate for RNs of 18.2%.
  • The RNPA clinical nurses’ vacancy rate is 8.4%, which is approximately half of the national vacancy rate.
  • More information about turnover and vacancy rates is available here.

Temporary Assignment of Staff from One Location to Another

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. 

County Budget Deficit

The County is facing a $250 million structural (ongoing) deficit.  To address this shortfall, County departments received significant budget reduction targets, as described here.

For updates on the County’s current negotiations with RNPA, visit: