Registered nurses at Sharp HealthCare have voted to authorize a labor strike if their union representatives are unable to reach a wage agreement with the San Diego health care system.

The Sharp Professional Nurses Network, an affiliate of the United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, said Nov. 10 that 98 percent of 2,203 nurses casting ballots voted to authorize a strike, which is not the same as calling a strike.

The union said Sharp is short more than 350 nurses, and that increasing wages could help fill that gap.

“We’ve spent months explaining to management why experienced nurses are a necessary part of patient care at Sharp,” Christine Magnusen, a registered nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, said in a news release. “Unfortunately, management refuses to acknowledge how turnover is impacting the working conditions of the nurses who remain.”

Sharp says its nurse turnover rates are lower than those in San Diego, Southern California and the state in general.

For its next nurse labor contract, the company has proposed a 16 percent raise to all its nurses, and increases of up to 26 percent based on individual experience and advancement. By contrast, the union has called for a 31 percent raise during the term of the next contract.

The two sides are scheduled to continue contract negotiations Nov. 15.

The union is required to notify Sharp of any plan to strike at least 10 days before such an action takes effect.

Sharp spokesman John Cihomsky said the company looks forward to reaching agreement with the union at the meeting. But if an accord is not reached, he added, “we are prepared with replacement nurses.”

Sharp has four acute-care and three specialty hospitals, as well as a health plan, two affiliated medical groups and outpatient facilities.