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Union cites Ebola crisis in California contract negotiations

Although negotiations over salaries may be routine, a large-scale employment dispute over salaries may implicate additional issues of contract and business law. The recent strike of approximately 18,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente's facilities in California provides an immediate example.

The nurses belong to a labor union that is currently in contract negotiations with the Kaiser hospitals and clinics that employ them. The contract negotiations have been ongoing since July 2014. However, negotiations may have come to a halt over patient-care concerns. 

The nurses claim that patient standards have been falling in recent months and that Kaiser has also failed to implement optimal safeguards in response to the Ebola outbreak. At the recent strike, some of the nurses displayed signs labeled, "Strike for health." In response, a spokesperson for Kaiser said the safety allegations were meritless and assured that Kaiser's facilities were equipped to handle Ebola cases.

Yet a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association went even farther, stating that the nurses may be using Ebola as a tactic to further their union's negotiation strategy. In any event, the association is working with federal and state officials to ensure that response protocols to Ebola and other infectious diseases are up-to-date.

Contract negotiations with a labor union typically produce a collective bargaining agreement. A CBA may govern wages, hours, and other working conditions. However, disputes may sometimes extend beyond an employment contract. In the context of Ebola, federal, state and local officials may have the authority to intervene in hospital operations and issue quarantine orders. When other aspects of a business are affected by a contract dispute, it may be time to call a business lawyer.

Source: Fox Business, "Nurses, citing patient care and Ebola, strike at hospitals in California during contract talks," Nov. 12, 2014

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