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Nurses Who Collect Blood for Red Cross Threaten to Strike

March 25, 1997|E. SCOTT RECKARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nurses who collect blood for the American Red Cross in Los Angeles and Orange counties have given notice they intend to strike when their contract runs out next week, the Red Cross said Monday.

Reserves of donated blood are currently good, officials said. Should a strike take place, Red Cross regions across the nation would send blood as needed to Los Angeles and Orange counties to avoid shortages, said William D. Nicely, chief executive of the Red Cross' Southern California Region.

About 230 head nurses, nurses and medical assistants are represented by the union. A strike would shut down regular blood collections at field locations in both counties and at Red Cross collection centers in Long Beach, West Los Angeles, West Covina and Santa Ana.

However, collections from platelet donors would continue at all four fixed locations, with managers filling in. And donors would be able to give blood to be used by family, friends or themselves at Santa Ana, West Los Angeles and West Covina.

The regional office was notified late Saturday that the workers, members of the Service Employees International Region Local 535, intend to strike at midnight Monday if a new contract is not reached. Negotiations are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Red Cross negotiators have yet to make their final offer, Red Cross spokeswoman Barbara Wilks said.

The current contract, negotiated in 1990, raised head nurse pay by 50% through last year, to the $44,000-$56,000 range annually. Pay for other nurses and assistants went up 30% to about $28,500 and $24,000, respectively.

The Red Cross has proposed no new pay increases in negotiations so far, and wants to reclassify the head nurses as managers not represented by the union.

It also has proposed eliminating pay that some workers earned for time spent driving to and from work, and cutting from eight hours to four hours the minimum time for which nurses are paid any time they report for work as assigned.

Union officials did not return calls seeking comment.

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