132 nurses worrying about pay Elementary school parity is sought from Hayden

April 17, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

One line of Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden's proposed $1.1 billion budget has left the county's 132 elementary school nurses feeling like woozy victims of a hit-and-run driver, according to union President Susan Orthaus.

To hear Mr. Hayden tell it, however, he's a good Samaritan who saw the accident and stopped to help.

After years of campaigning to get the elementary school nurses paid at a level equal to that of secondary school nurses, Mr. Hayden moved the $3 million budget appropriation for the elementary school nurses from the Health Department to the school board's budget. He did not, however, include any money to make up the difference in pay.

What does that mean?

That's what Mrs. Orthaus and her Professional Staff Nurses Association members would like to know. She said they're curious about the different pension systems, the different health plans, accrued sick time, and even the viability of their union. Secondary school nurses are represented by the teachers' association.

"I want to know the plan," Mrs. Orthaus said, complaining that there is no plan and that she was kept in the dark about the abrupt move until last week.

Yesterday, Mr. Hayden said putting all the nurses in "the same pot" would lead to a more "realistic" solution of the pay disparity. School Superintendent Dr. Stuart Berger said Thursday he doesn't have the money in his budget to pay the elementary school nurses more money.

The 45 secondary school nurses who work for the school board make about 25 percent more per year than do the Health Department's nurses, who include 132 elementary school nurses and 80 public health nurses. Mrs. Orthaus said she made $23,750 last year, but would have made $27,000 as a secondary school nurse.

The nurses union leadership has been trying to meet with Mr. Hayden for months, without any success, Mrs. Orthaus said. In desperation, she said, she called the executive Wednesday on his weekly half-hour radio talk show on WBAL.

"I shouldn't have to do that," she said.

After the radio show call, a meeting was arranged with the executive for Monday.

Mr. Hayden said he refused to meet with the nurses over the winter because he thought they wanted to talk about labor negotiations. He denied ever promising them pay parity during his 1990 campaign for office. Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly said questions about working conditions and benefit changes will be worked out once the nurses submit a written list of their concerns.

"I'm just disgusted with the whole thing," said Mrs. Orthaus, who claimed that Mr. Hayden was very sympathetic to the nurses' complaints during the 1990 political campaign, but has treated them poorly since. "We worked very hard for him" in the 1990 campaign, she said. "Now, he doesn't want anything to do with us. He treats all county employees without any respect."

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