3 months in: Status of Tenet, Massachusetts Nurses Association labor dispute

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The union representing about 800 nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and the hospital's parent company, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, remain at odds as a strike at the facility reaches the three-month mark.  

Eight things to know:

1. Hundreds of Saint Vincent nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses have been on strike since March 8. The union estimates 700 nurses are striking, while the hospital's estimate is closer to 600.

2. Staffing has been a major point of contention. The union has sought a 4:1 patient-to-nurse ratio on medical/surgical floors and telemetry units, in most cases, as well as resource nurses and other staff on various units. The union also said it wants more emergency department staffing and more nurses to help with urgent and critical situations on the medical/surgical floors. Saint Vincent said it will not agree to across-the-board 4:1 staffing on medical/surgical units.

3.  In a May 27 news release, Saint Vincent said it had made four proposals to the union, including one with staffing language identical to the UMass Memorial Medical Center contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and another that included an independent quarterly audit committee to verify staffing and a faster arbitration process. Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson told Becker's another proposal included a 4:1 ratio for two more medical/surgical units that have higher patient acuity.

4. The union and hospital have not negotiated since May 5, and Saint Vincent said May 12 it planned to fill about 50 nursing positions with its first job posting for hiring permanent replacement nurses. The posting included day-shift positions scheduled for 32 hours or more weekly in critical care and all but one inpatient med-surg unit. As of May 18, the hospital had posted 102 available permanent replacement nursing positions, citing a need to stabilize the workforce. Ms. Jackson said June 7 that some offers have been accepted from nurses who had crossed the picket line and nurses who will cross the picket line, as well as from nurses outside the hospital.

5. In a May 27 letter, a group of federal lawmakers denounced the move to permanently replace nurses at Saint Vincent. The letter is signed by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., as well as U.S. Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Lori Trahan, D-Mass., members of the Central Massachusetts State Legislative Delegation and members of the Worcester City Council.

6. During the strike at Saint Vincent, the union  has also held informational picketing at other hospitals in Massachusetts. Union spokesperson David Schildmeier said each demonstration has dealt with staffing concerns, as well as nurses concerns about working conditions.

7. At Saint Vincent, no new negotiations are scheduled. Mr. Schildmeier said nurses on strike remain strong and resolved.

8. Before this strike, the last one at Saint Vincent was 21 years ago, when about 600 nurses walked out, according to the Telegram & Gazette. That strike ended after 49 days. 

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