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Registered nurses at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center Monday struck the city's largest voluntary hospital for the first time after five months of negotiations broke down.

"Not enough nurses," chanted pickets, emphasizing the strike is over the center's refusal to let the 1,300 nurses participate in decisions about staffing levels and workloads at the 1,315-bed center. In anticipation of the strike, it reduced its bed population from more than 90 percent to 73 percent and would reduce its patient load further if warranted, center president Gary Gambuti said.

Recent contracts at Presbyterian and Mount Sinai hospitals contained a $31,500 base-level annual salary, $3,000 above the St. Luke's-Roosevelt contract that expired Dec. 31, Anne Schott of the New York State Nurses Association said. Gambuti said the center offered a $31,500 starting base, rising to $34,000 in the second year.

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