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Nurse Scab says Overtime Pay a Problem

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Bessemer, ALTanya is a nurse based in Alabama but a lot of her work takes her to California hospitals—substituting for RN’s who are on strike for nurses overtime violations and other disputes. Incredibly, Tanya is also claiming overtime violations—yes, that’s correct—when filling in for nurses on strike.

Another nurse strike took place on July 3rd at seven Sutter Health Hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area. The San Francisco Chronicle (6/2/12) covered the day-long strike as well as the issues leading up to it. Although the Nurses Union and Sutter have been negotiating a new contract for more than a year, they have not yet reached an agreement over sick leave, overtime and health benefits.

When such nursing strikes happen, nurse replacements are needed to ensure consistent, quality patient care at the hospital(s) affected by the strike. For instance, Tanya (not her real name) was flown to Long Beach, California from Alabama last year when nurses went on a day strike at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children's Hospital, for an "erosion of quality of care and cuts to patient protections," according to the National Nurses United.

Those nurses were then told that they would be locked out of their jobs for four days because replacements had to be hired in a five-day block, according to a CNN news report (12/22/11). Enter Tanya, and hundreds of other nurses.

This past April, she was flown to Vallejo, ostensibly to cover the striking nurses for one week. Tanya says her pay rate is $50 per hour, eight hours per day, with no overtime. But overtime violations appear to be rampant: when it comes to covering nurses who work overtime, it is reasonable to assume that overtime would accrue…

“We often work 60 hour weeks and find out when we arrive, the agency informs us that our rate of pay is only $45 per hour,” says Tanya, adding that this happens frequently. “As well, I arrived on Saturday, April 28th and was told my last day of work was the following Saturday. But I didn’t start work until Monday, so they didn’t pay the first two days. This time—the first few days-- is often spent for hospital orientation but we don’t get paid if we have worked at that hospital in the past. We also signed a meal waiver upon arrival.”

Tanya says that the agency recruits nurses nationwide to cover nurses that strike. “They call us scabs but I do this because we get paid a lot more than our regular rate of pay,” says Tanya, who has now filed a nurses’ overtime complaint.

“I cover nurses who go on strike a few times each year, sometimes up to 13 weeks at a time, so I work these travel contracts about 30 weeks a year or more in this position,” Tanya explains. “Typically, thousands of people are involved in a strike and usually a few hundred nurses are sent to one hospital. Other hospitals may need up to three thousand RNs to cover their nurses who have gone out on strike action.

"I have been covering nurses—who are mainly striking for overtime violations—since 2005 and most of the time we are lied to. We are told our rate of pay is $60, but it turns out to be $50. Or like my last job—we are told $50 and wind up with $45 per hour.

"I understand that a verbal contract is hard to prove; we don’t sign the written contract until we arrive on site. But according to California state law, we are supposed to get paid overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the regular rate of pay, because we are paid on a daily rate, not salary.

"We have never been paid 1.5 times after 40 hours. Instead I have often received an extra check for $250 and the last strike I covered in April, they sent the same amount--$250. I think they started sending us these checks because enough nurses—us scabs--complained about not getting overtime. But this amount isn’t nearly enough to cover 20 hours of overtime compensation per week.”

Tanya knows that, given what she does, her complaint will aggravate a lot of nurses who are striking for overtime. But at the same time, everyone must realize that patient safety is first and foremost—nurses must be replaced. In this regard, Tanya believes that everyone has the right to a fair wage, and that includes overtime when overtime is due.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
I have no sympathy for poor Tanya. The striking nurses are sacrificing so patient care is protected and they are given safe and fair working conditions and benefits.
I work for Kaiser and we gave them a 10 day strike notice, plenty of time to sit back down at the bargaining table and engage in some hard work.
What does poor Tanya expect when she is basically a mercenary? Karma is a b*tch.

Posted by

on
Fair practice (safe staffing levels, breaks & OT) SHOULD happen everywhere...strikes are usually the way this occurs, but if you want your hospital open after the strike, you need the Tanyas, cause upper management doesn't usually give in easily. Don't blame the Tanyas, blame your upper management, etc...money grubbers, they are!

Posted by

on
Poor Tanya,
She breaks RN strikes for a living. And the hospitals who hire her don't honor their agreement with her and now she must make a complaint about overtime.
Tanya, I understand why you will not use your real name. Scab is the what you are. You are also a hindrince to quality patient care. Nurses strike only when management has pushed them to their limits.
Wake up America, your nurses are in a constant battle for safe staffing, the right to one break in a 12 1/2 to 14 or more hour shift. Patients are dying because of hospitals putting nurses in situations that kill them:
1. Unsafe staffing levels to the extreme
2. Firing any nurse that objects
3. Elimination of support people- CNAs, secretaries, transporters, housekeepers, even security guards are all being cut back and the RN is told to fill in plus still do RN work
4. Burdonsome paperwork that serves every department but nursing
5. Constant threat of discipline and temination
6. Unsafe lifting practices that result in high injury rates and disability
7. Inadequate cleaning and infection control
8. Floating nurses to units where they have no competance

I take exception to one of the last lines: patient safety is first and [striking] nurses must be replaced.
Most states require at least 2 weeks notice for RNs to strike. The hospitals, instead of trying to settle the contract and actually pay nurses and staff units adequately, spend their money paying people like Tanya twice what they pay their nurses to break the strike.

If a nursing staff is striking - choose another hospital. Nurses put up with so much abuse, that things must be very bad indeed. Shipping in multiple Tanyas, who have no idea how the hospital works or where anything is or how to get it, is not a safe practice. Tanya is a medication error waiting to happen.
There unfortunately will always be Tanyas. Thank God there are more RNs who care to walk out sometimes when conditions for their patients and themselves become so bad that nothing else is left to be done.

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