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Classified in: Health, Business, Covid-19 virus
Subjects: CON, LBR, FVT

St. Vincent Hospital Nurses Will Vote to Ratify New Contract on Monday, Jan. 3 to End the Longest Nurses Strike in State History at 301 Days


WORCESTER, Mass., Dec. 31, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The St. Vincent Hospital nurses will vote on Monday, Jan. 3rd to ratify a tentative agreement that would end the nurses historic strike (301 days long) and clear the path for the hospital to begin recalling nurses to provide care to patients and fully reopen the hospital beds to address the Omicron surge. 

SVH Nurses Ratification Vote & Press Conference to Announce Result

 

When:  

Voting will be held from 6 a.m. ? 9 p.m. on Monday Jan. 3, with a press conference to announce the result to the media at 9:30 p.m.

Where:

Teamster Local 170 Meeting Hall, 330 Southwest Cutoff (Rt. 20), Worcester

What:

All nurses who are members in good standing will be eligible to vote to ratify the contract via secret ballot.  The contract is ratified if a majority of those voting vote in favor.  Nurses and supporters will hold a press conference once the votes are counted outside the Teamsters facility to announce the result.  The press conference will also be livestreamed on the Massachusetts Nurses Association Facebook page.

Editor's Note: The media will not be allowed inside the Teamsters facility to ensure the nurses privacy when voting, however they are free to speak with nurses outside the facility and the MNA will make nurses available for interviews throughout the day.

"Our members are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to vote on and approve this agreement, which will allow us to end the strike and do what we have always wanted to do, which is to continue to provide the best possible care to our patients and our community," said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a 35-year nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.  "This has been a long and arduous struggle by 700 courageous caregivers who put everything on the line to achieve the improvements we need to ensure optimum patient care.  Our negotiating committee is strongly supporting ratification.  Once ratified, we look forward to having our nurses re-enter the hospital ? our home ? with a commitment to work with all staff to build a bright future for St. Vincent Hospital."

On Dec. 17, the 285th day of their historic strike for safer patient care, the 700 nurses reached a tentative agreement with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare that guarantees striking nurses the right to return to their original positions, and provides the staffing improvements the nurses need to end the strike and re-enter the hospital to provide care to their community in the face of an emerging new surge of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant. 

The agreement was reached after two weeks of discussions with federal mediators, and finally settled at an in-person session, which was mediated by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.  It comes after two years of negotiations and more than 43 negotiating sessions.  It followed what is now the longest nurses strike nationally in over 15 years and the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history, with more than nine months of picketing, community rallies and marches, tremendous support from federal, state, and municipal public officials who rallied to the nurses' cause.  The strike also garnered the support of faith-based, social justice and labor organizations and their members not only from across the state but from across the world. 

The final component of the agreement reached at the final session was a "back to work" provision, which guarantees all nurses who went out on strike the right to return to work in the same position, hours, and shift that they worked prior to the strike, while providing a process for the parties to follow in recalling the nurses back to work.  Under the agreement, the hospital will have 30 days following ratification to recall all nurses back to the hospital to provide care. 

"With this agreement we can go back into that building with great pride not just in what we got in writing in the agreement, but for what we have built together as nurses who know they did everything they could for their patients and their community," said Dominique Muldoon, RN, a nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the bargaining unit.

Agreement Highlights

Staffing Improvements

 The new contract includes improvements in staffing on a number of units sought by the nurses, including enforceable staffing grids and the following specifics:

While staffing improvements were made in the majority of the patient units the nurses are very clear that work remains in other areas including the maternity unit as well as the emergency department.

"We will now work to make progress in all areas inside the building and hope Tenet leadership commits to do the same," said Marie Ritacco, RN, a member of the nurses negotiating committee and vice president of the MNA.

Workplace Safety

One of the key improvements in the agreement is language, which the nurses have sought for a number of years, regarding workplace violence against nurses, who are subject to assault on the job to the same degree as police officers and prison guards. The new language provides two RN seats on the Hospital Workplace Safety Committee, adds new language committing the committee to work to monitor and address issues related to workplace violence, requires the hospital to staff and maintain a metal detector to screen all patients and visitors in the busy ED, and adds contractually enforceable additional staffing by a police detail during the night shift seven days a week and on all three shifts on weekends and holidays.  The agreement also provides "assault pay," for a nurse who is assaulted by a patient or visitor. A nurse who receives workers compensation and who uses sick or vacation pay as the result of a workplace assault for the first five days will have such time restored to their sick/vacation time off bank.

Wages and Benefits

One of the most important enhancements was the nurses' ability to obtain significantly enhanced health insurance benefit for part-time nurses with all nurses who work 24-hours or more receiving a premium with Tenet paying 80% of the cost, up from 65% for 24-hour nurses previously, which keeps pace with the benefit for nurses working at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

As to wages, the contract provides: 

If ratified the contract will run from Jan. 3, 2021? Dec. 31, 2025 and includes 2 years of retroactive pay (2020 and 2021), a four-year agreement going forward from the date of ratification through December 31 ,2025.

"I have nothing but pride and appreciation for all our 700 nurses who did all they could for their patients and this community.  There are so many of our members who won't be impacted by this agreement who stood out there with us every day for their fellow nurses, but more importantly for our patients and for the city we so proudly serve," Pellegrino concluded.  "We have been so moved and uplifted by all the support we received throughout this ordeal, from people honking their horns, or stopping by with food or water, for those who put up signs or walked the line with us, for the dozens of unions, community and faith-based organizations that stood with us and supported us in so many ways, for the efforts of our Congressional leaders like our representatives Jim McGovern and Lori Trahan, Senators Elizbeth Warren and Ed Markey, the many members of the  legislative delegation that came out for us, the City Council and Mayor Petty? they all share in this agreement and we thank them all.  Our strike was a stand for working people and essential workers all over the world.  Our strike struck a chord, and for that and because of that we will walk into that building with our heads held high."

For more background on the strike and the issues involved, click here to learn more.   

MassNurses.org ? Facebook.com/MassNurses ? Twitter.com/MassNurses

Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.

SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association


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