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NEW: UMass Memorial Nurses to Hold One-Day Strike

Friday, May 10, 2013

 

After contentious relations with UMass Memorial administration over staffing levels, UMass Memorial nurses with the Massachusetts Nurses Association have voted to strike for one day later this month.

Currently the registered nurses who work at the Worcester-based hospital campuses of UMass Memorial Medical Center issued the required 10-day notice today of their intent to conduct a one-day strike on Thursday, May 23. The strike would be the largest nurse’s strike in Massachusetts history.

In response, UMass Memorial released a statement saying, "The Massachusetts Nurses Association’s (MNA) decision to strike is highly disappointing, ignores our willingness to continue good faith negotiations, and casts aside the substantive proposals we have put on the table to address specific concerns. In addition to the many concessions we have made over the past months, our newest proposals would add a significant number of nurses at an annual cost of approximately $10.8 million to the Emergency Department, Maternity, NICU and the night shift, as well as provide for reduced or no patient assignments for charge nurses. The MNA has not put forward a single alternative suggestion."

“Our members are tired of working in an environment that they know is unsafe for our patients and they are ready to make a stand on May 23 for the improvements we need to protect them ,” said Margaret McLoughlin, RN, a nurse in the intensive care unit and co-chair of the MNA//NNU local bargaining unit on the University campus. “Our message to the public is very simple; we are prepared to strike for one day to make it safe for you every day.”

UMass Memorial said that "the MNA is falsely leading our nurses to believe this is only a one-day strike – that it isn't a big deal, and is primarily symbolic. It is not. Any time a nurse leaves his or her patients it is real and serious."

According to the MNA, the one-day strike will begin at 6 a.m. on Thursday, May 23 and will end on Friday, May 24 at 6:00 a.m. Until then, nurses with the union have offered the hospital four dates for negotiations to be held prior to the strike to provide management an opportunity engage in a good faith effort to reach a fair settlement.

“No nurse wants to strike, but our nurses are committed to do whatever we need to do to protect our patients,” said Lynne Starbard, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit for the Memorial/Hahnemann campus. “Perhaps now management will do what is necessary to reach a fair settlement with safe staffing for quality patient care.”

More than 2,000 nurses are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

"During the strike we will need to bring in replacement nurses to care for patients," the hospital said in a statement. "We have contracted with one of the nation’s most reputable nurse staffing agencies to provide qualified replacements. In order to secure a sufficient number of nurses to provide safe patient care, we are contractually committed to keeping the replacement nurses for five days."

According to the union, the group’s decision to issue an official strike notice followed two rounds of contract negotiations with UMass management held last Friday and Monday, the latest attempts in over a year of negotiations for a new union contract, which has resulted in an impasse on a number of key issues including the nurses’ call for safer RN staffing levels.

Members cast an overwhelming vote to authorize a strike for safe staffing on April 11.

“When nurses have too many patients to care for at one time, complications are more likely and at UMass, we have been warning management about these conditions for two years, yet they continue to cut staff,” said Starbard.

The hospital said in a statement, "We want to emphasize that the excellent quality of care that patients have come to expect from the Medical Center will continue without interruption no matter what if the Medical Center is unable to reach an agreement with the MNA between now and May 23. Our replacement nurses have significant experience treating patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals like the Medical Center. We anticipate that the rest of the Medical Center’s employees will be on hand to provide the same excellent quality of care that the Medical Center is known for."

"In the interim, the Medical Center remains committed to negotiating with the MNA to avert a strike by reaching a mutually acceptable contract that balances the needs of our community and our patients while acknowledging the critical role our nurses play in caring for our patients."

 

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