Sunday, November 18, 2007

The calvary is coming... declares a new sign by the outpost of the striking Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) in front of the Whitesburg hospital of Appalachian Regional Healthcare system .

I didn't get to stop and ask who the calvary might be, but this week's article in the Lexington Herald-Leader suggests that the calvary might be "a federal mediator and state officials" who have been instrumental in restarting negotiations between ARH and the KNA.

Six weeks ago when the strike began, ARH took a hardline stand, refusing to continue negotiations and announcing that they would begin immediately to hire permanent replacements for the striking nurses.

This week's article provides another hint about why ARH might be willing to temper their hardline stand and resume the negotiations. The precise numbers are in dispute (depending upon whether you are reading the KNA site, the ARH site, or the Herald-Leader), but approximately 750 registered nurses are involved in the dispute, of which about 600 have refused to cross the picket line. Some 150 to 175 union nurses have violated the picket line and continued to work. ARH has permanently replaced another 125 striking nurse positions.

It's not hard to see that this leaves ARH with at least 450 registered nurse positions that are unfilled. One wonders how ARH ever imagined that they could replace the striking nurses in today's employment market. They acted as if they had not heard there was a nursing shortage. Or perhaps they merely hoped that time, cold, lack of income, and the threat of replacement would soften the KNA resolve.

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