News & Events

St. V nurses OK contract

View Worcester Telegram & Gazette article here

Friday, May 20, 2011

St. V nurses OK contract
3-year deal addresses staffing concerns


WORCESTER — Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital have approved a new three-year contract, closing a labor dispute that nearly ended in a strike earlier this month.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents the 750 registered nurses, did not disclose the vote tally from Wednesday night but said the nurses voted overwhelmingly to ratify an agreement that runs from January 2010 to December 2012. The contract includes language related to staffing levels and a 1 percent wage increase for the year that started Jan. 1, followed by another 1 percent wage increase in January 2012.

The nurses’ previous contract initially ended in December 2009, and a series of extensions were set to end earlier this month. The nurses had notified St. Vincent management they would strike for one day on May 6.

St. Vincent, which is owned by the Tennessee hospital chain Vanguard Health Systems, was readying temporary nurses to take over duties at the hospital when the agreement was reached May 4. The hospital said yesterday in a statement that it spent more than $2.5 million to make sure the hospital would remain open and fully operating during a strike.

Nurses and management exchanged sharp words publicly before the agreement, with nurses claiming St. Vincent was unsafe and the hospital arguing that the nurses were being used to further a national agenda of the labor organization National Nurses United.

After the ratification vote, the nurses said in a press release that the new staffing levels will transform St. Vincent from “one of the worst staffed hospitals in the state to one of the best.” The hospital said it was grateful to the hospital’s committed nurses but disappointed by the actions of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

“The damage to the reputation of the nursing profession caused by the one-day strike, planned and coordinated by the MNA/NNU at multiple hospitals in order to hinder the ability of these hospitals to secure adequate replacement nurses, is immeasurable,” according to the hospital’s statement.