Sacramento-based Sutter Health has suffered a setback in the latest round of a long-running collective bargaining dispute about the anticipated fiscal impact of the federal Affordable Care Act.
But significantly, it affects only about 300 registered nurses at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch.
A federal administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that Sutter Health East Bay Region engaged in unfair labor practices with the California Nurses Association representing the Sutter Delta registered nurses.
Jay R. Pollack concluded that Sutter acted improperly when it imposed terms and conditions of employment in September last year, following prolonged negotiations that Sutter declared at an impasse.
The union maintained that talks were not at an impasse and continued to request additional information about fiscal estimates that it said would enable talks to continue. Pollack's ruling faulted Sutter for failing to provide "information relevant for collective bargaining."
CNA objected to imposed conditions it said unilaterally cut paid sick leave and eliminated all paid health care coverage for registered nurses working less than 30 hours a week at the Antioch facility.
The conditions came amid Sutter's concerns about the possible economic impact it would absorb as a result of requirements in the federal Affordable Care Act.
CNA said Sutter brought up the potential fiscal impact of the health care overhaul in negotiations dating back to 2011.
Pollack ordered that, on request by the union, Sutter "rescind any unilateral changes it has implemented in its employees' terms and conditions of employment" and "make whole all bargaining unit employees for the losses they suffered as a result of (Sutter's) unilateral changes, plus interest."
Sutter issued a short statement: "We think we did nothing wrong and are exploring our options, including filing an appeal."
While acknowledging that Pollack's ruling applied only to the Antioch hospital, the nurses union said its implications are far-reaching.
"We see this decision as vital in the fight against employers nationwide who are attempting to use the Affordable Care Act as a reason to reduce employees' hours and avoid providing health care coverage," said registered nurse Deborah Burger, co-president of California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. "The ACA is supposed to provide more health care, not less."
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.