(BCN) — Registered nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center campuses in Berkeley and Oakland gave notice Tuesday that they plan to strike starting on Christmas Eve. Nurses plan to strike starting at 7 a.m. that day and continue walking the picket lines until the morning of Jan. 2.

The walkouts will occur at 2450 Ashby Ave. and 2001 Dwight Way in Berkeley and 350 Hawthorne Ave. in Oakland. Nurses have been negotiating with their employer Sutter Health since June of last year.

Working conditions, continuing education and benefits are keeping the parties from reaching an agreement, according to the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, the unions representing the nurses. Sutter Health officials said the nurses’ union “is using patients as bargaining chips, just as the ‘tripledemic’ of flu, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID is slamming hospitals across the region.”

According to Sutter Health, nurses are demanding “an unsustainable wage increase of 40 percent” over four years, which is out of line with their peers. Kaiser Permanente approved a 22.5 percent increase over four years. Stanford Medicine approved a 17 percent increase over three years and UCSF nurses are getting a 16 percent increase over three years, Sutter Health officials said.

The average annual salary of Sutter Health nurses is almost $170,000, according to Sutter Health. The average annual wage for registered nurses in California is $124,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Sutter Health is offering a 22.4 percent pay increase over four years, employer-paid health benefits for nurses and their families as well as other benefits.

“Every other Sutter Health-affiliated hospital with California Nurses Association-represented members, 16 in total, approved their contracts weeks ago,” a Sutter Health spokesperson said. “Yet, the union at Alta Bates Summit continues to be the outlier, making unrealistic demands and not giving a counterproposal on wages during the last bargaining session.”

The spokesperson added that the nurses are “not committed to finding reasonable solutions to bring these two-year negotiations to a close.”

Sutter Health is making plans so it can treat patients despite the strike. Ninety-seven percent of union nurses voted Monday to authorize the strike, union officials said.

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