DiversityNursing Blog

Hundreds Strike Outside Tufts Medical Center For Nurses

Posted by Pat Magrath

Thu, Jul 13, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

0712_tufts-strike-04.jpgFor many reasons, it’s always sad to hear about Nurses going on strike. You are the most dedicated and caring people we know, so for Nurses to call a strike, things have to be pretty bad. We’re saddened to share the news that the Nurses at Tufts Medical Center went on strike today.

Like most people, we immediately think about the patients affected, but we also think about you, the Nurses and how you’re affected. We hope this gets resolved very soon. Here’s the story. Please let us know your thoughts.

Nurses flooded the streets outside Tufts Medical Center Wednesday in the first strike of its kind at a major Boston hospital in 31 years as hospital executives vowed to lock them out for the next four days with no contract settlement in sight.

Starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday, nurses rallied, chanted, and carried signs outside the main entrance. Some 320 replacement nurses were brought in to work through Monday, and executives promised to keep the Chinatown hospital running without any interruption in patient care.

Hospital executives said about 60 surgeries planned for Wednesday were performed as scheduled, and patients were keeping their appointments.

“Outside of the organization, you may see what looks like a celebration,’’ said Dr. Michael Wagner, chief executive officer of Tufts Medical, referring to the nurses marching on Washington Street. “Inside this organization, we are completely focused. This has been a galvanizing moment for the organization.”

The strike came after about 15 months of talks failed to produce a new contract for the 1,200 registered nurses at Tufts, a 415-bed teaching hospital that treats children and adults.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents the striking nurses, says it is seeking increases in pay and staffing levels, but both sides deadlocked over another key issue: retirement benefits. The hospital wants nurses who still have pensions to move into defined-contribution plans, similar to 401(k)s, which would save the hospital money. The union has fought to keep the nurses’ pensions.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a former labor leader, urged Tufts’ administrators and nurses to return to the bargaining table.

“A prolonged strike or lockout does not help Boston, does not help the patients, and does not help find a resolution,” he said in a statement.

But unlike last year, when Walsh helped avert a nurses strike at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the mayor said he has not been asked to help broker a deal at Tufts.

The union has said for days that its members were prepared to strike. But Julia Agri, a Tufts nurse for 9½ years, said she never expected to walk out.

When she finished working the overnight shift Wednesday morning, she was escorted out of the hospital along with other nurses. Then she grabbed a sign that read, “If Tufts Nurses Are Out Here Something is Wrong in There,” and joined her colleagues picketing on the sidewalk.

“Nurses love this hospital,” she said. “[I’m] feeling really sad it has gotten to this point.”

Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, a nurse at the hospital for 29 years and cochairwoman of the union’s bargaining team, said it was “heartbreaking” to strike.

“It’s not a place we want to be,” she said on the sidewalk. “There were a lot of tears this morning.”

Chief nursing officer Terry Hudson-Jinks, a member of the management team, said contract talks collapsed not over patient care issues but over money concerns.

“No one wins in a strike,’’ she said.

Currently, nurses at the top of the wage scale at Tufts make about $63 per hour. At the Brigham, the top wage is about $70 per hour. Nurses also have the opportunity to earn overtime and other additional pay.

Both sides agree that nurses’ wages at Tufts are below those of other Boston hospitals. Tufts officials say they want to rectify that by offering a 10.5 percent raise over about four years to nurses at the top of the pay scale.

All other nurses would receive a 5.5 percent pay hike over four years, in addition to 5 percent annual step raises, which are already built into the contract.

The 320 replacement nurses, hired for about $6 million, were brought in by a national staffing agency from across the country and trained off-site in preparation for the strike.

Hospital executives said the replacement nurses were hired on a five-day contract, so the striking nurses would not be allowed back into the hospital until Monday. But the striking nurses said they would try to return to work Thursday morning.

State health inspectors said they will remain at the hospital throughout the strike and lockout to monitor quality of care. Six officials from the state Department of Public Health arrived at Tufts at 6 a.m. Wednesday and stayed until noon, hospital executives said. They plan to return twice a day at unannounced times until the striking nurses return to work. The state Department of Mental Health is also at the hospital.

“We have been working closely with hospital leadership to prepare for this strike, and we have transitioned to actively monitoring operations at the hospital,’’ said Ann Scales, spokeswoman for the Public Health Department. “Throughout the coming days, we will continue to work with the hospital to ensure patients receive safe, effective, and high-quality care.”

The health department required Tufts to submit a comprehensive strike plan that includes staffing details, but the agency refused to release the plan to the Globe Wednesday.

The strike, in a traditionally labor-friendly city, drew a scores of supporters to the sidewalk outside the hospital, including union firefighters, laborers, carpenters, and a parade of state and city politicians.

“This is about a bigger promise, the promise that if you come to work every day and you work hard and you make sacrifices, you will have a pension, you will be able to retire,” Senator John F. Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, said at an afternoon rally with the nurses.

One nurse, Paula Sinn, said she had one patient set to receive an infusion for a neuromuscular disease who postponed treatment because she didn’t want to cross the picket line.

“So she made that decision before we heard from her doctor whether it was safe to do so,” Sinn said. “We were so touched. It makes me feel stronger to do what we’re doing because we’re doing it for people like her.”

Jacqueline Buzzard, an Exeter, N.H., resident waiting for a heart transplant, kept her appointment at the hospital Wednesday, despite the strike. The nurses, she said, supported her when her heart ailment was diagnosed.

“It was traumatic for me, but they were there,” she said. “I want them to get everything they need.”

While Bob Kilroy’s daughter was inside the hospital being treated for a major heart issue, Kilroy wrote “patient’s father” at the top of a union sign that read, “I stand with the Tufts nurses.” Then he walked the picket line with the nurses, saying they have provided compassionate, quality care for his daughter for years.

“These are the people that have been here for her for 17 years,” he said through tears. “So much love and dedication.”

Boston Globe

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Brigham, nurses lay out key sticking points in contract talks

Posted by Pat Magrath

Mon, Jun 20, 2016 @ 03:04 PM

ryan_bwhhospital1_met-6084.jpgNurses at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston are threatening a walk-out next Monday, June 27, 2016. The Massachusetts Nurses Union and management at the hospital have been in negotiations and cannot agree on their contract. What are your thoughts about it?

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the union representing its registered nurses are at an impasse.

Negotiators from Brigham and the Massachusetts Nurses Association have met 20 times to hash out a new contract, but after the latest session on Friday, the dispute seemed only further from resolution.

The union has threatened a one-day strike on June 27, and patient care is likely to be disrupted as hospital leaders scale down operations and hire temporary replacement nurses. The hospital says nurses will be locked out for five days if they walk out.

“In response to what the union said was their greatest concern, we worked hard to develop a generous wage and benefit package for every one of our nurses, despite the tremendous financial pressure in healthcare,” Dr. Ron M. Walls, Brigham’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the union rejected our most recent proposal.”

Brigham is owned by Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest health care provider network.

Union negotiators said in a statement that “nurses are prepared to strike unless Partners offers a fair settlement that values patients over profits… Every patient deserves safe care and every nurse deserves a fair wage and equal benefits.”

So, what’s preventing an agreement? As hospital and union leaders prepared to continue talks Monday, they shared details of their latest proposals with the Globe:

Wages

Brigham nurses receive 5 percent annual raises for their first 18 years on the job. The hospital proposed keeping those step raises and adding a new step at the top of the pay scale. Those at the top would receive a 4 percent increase, plus a $500 bonus, over three years, bringing pay for full-time nurses at the top of the scale to $148,616. The average Brigham nurse currently makes $106,000 a year. The hospital also offered $1.4 million in bonuses, but after the union rejected its offer, it directed that money to hiring temporary nurses to work in case of a strike.

The union also wanted to keep step raises in place and add a top step to the scale. But it wanted bigger raises than the hospital proposed: a 5 percent raise for nurses at the top of the scale, and an additional 4 percent increase for all nurses over two years.

Benefits

Brigham wants to place newly hired nurses into a “flex” insurance plan already offered to other Brigham and Partners employees. The hospital calls it a comprehensive plan with a wide range of options, which many union nurses have voluntarily selected in the past. Brigham officials said they offered to set a maximum employee premium contribution rate so they wouldn’t be able to increase what nurses pay without future negotiations.

But the union says the hospital is forcing newly hired nurses into “lesser benefits.” Officials say the hospital has already “lured” many nurses into its preferred insurance plan only to increase employee costs over time. They want new nurses to be able to choose from the same health insurance options that existing nurses have.

Staffing

The union says Brigham has been cutting nurse staffing in one unit of the hospital, where patients are recovering from major thoracic procedures, such as lung transplants. Union officials say the unit was historically staffed with 15 nurses at a time, and they want to keep staffing at that level.

Hospital officials maintain that staffing in that unit is “comparable to or better than similar units within the hospital and at other hospitals throughout the state.” They want to set staffing levels according to the number of patients in the unit at a given time, and how sick the patients are. On Friday, the hospital asked the union to agree to a plan for submitting complaints about staffing to senior nursing officials, but the union said this was “unacceptable” because nurses already complain when they have concerns about staffing and “nothing is done.”

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