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Palomar Health workers recently voted in favor of a strike but the move has since been called off. Photo by Ryan Grothe
Palomar Health workers recently voted in favor of a strike but the move has since been called off. Photo by Ryan Grothe
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Strike averted after Palomar Health employees, officials reach tentative agreement

REGION — A one-day strike planned by nurses and caregivers at Palomar Health Medical Centers in Escondido and Poway has been called off after officials and union members reached a tentative agreement regarding their embattled four-year contract, the California Nurses Association said Tuesday.

Union members announced their plans for the Thursday strike in mid-June as a last resort to bring officials to the negotiating table. Members say they have spent the last 14 months trying to finalize a fair contract for the 2021-2025 period, leaving approximately 3,000 personnel without agreements in place for the first year.

Bargaining unit members must now vote to ratify the tentative agreement before they can have a finalized contract in place.

“The agreements are pending ratification; nurses and caregivers say they look forward to sharing details about the ways their new contracts address some of their most pressing patient care concerns, such as ensuring safe staffing for the benefit of both patients and workers, protecting the health and safety of employees, and recruiting and retaining RNs and caregivers,” the California Nurses Association said in a press release.

Palomar Health officials confirmed Wednesday morning that their bargaining teams negotiated over the weekend and “for the last 34 hours straight” with California Nurses and the affiliated Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, saying that both sides worked diligently to reach a fair agreement.

“Palomar Health committed to returning to the bargaining table amid a strike notice from the unions, which may have prevented the health district from offering the highest quality of care to their patients,” said Palomar Health spokeswoman Bianca Kasawdish. “The executive team at Palomar Health is at the bargaining table to ensure their best efforts to negotiate in good faith, come to an agreement, and avoid a strike and the detriments that come along with it.”

Health care employee strikes will be in place starting at 7 a.m. on June 23 with a rally in front of the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. Photo by Ryan Grothe
Palomar Health employees in Escondido and Poway alleged unfair labor practices. Photo by Ryan Grothe

Union members voted in favor of a strike on June 7 and 8, stating that officials were refusing to address concerns related to staffing and health and safety and engaging in bad faith bargaining and unfair labor practices. They provided a 10-day strike notice on June 13.

At the time of the strike announcement, Palomar officials denied claims of staffing and cleanliness issues, and asserted they have made good faith efforts to negotiate.

On Wednesday, Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen said leaders value their employees and “want to make sure they have every opportunity to be heard and voice their concerns.”

“We also want to ensure our patients and their families that we are ready to serve them and provide excellent care to our community with no disruptions. As always, we remain focused on our primary mission, which is to provide San Diego County and the surrounding communities access to extraordinary healthcare and services,” Hansen said.

The Palomar Health district is the largest public health district by area in California, serving over 500,000 people in the areas of Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Ramona, Julian, Valley Center and Santa Ysabel.