Maine nurses confront hospital president over end of paid leave

Members of the Maine State Nurses Association are expressing disapproval toward Maine Medical Center President Jeff Sanders after they said the Portland-based hospital illegally ended nurses' paid leave for bereavement, jury duty and military service.

The union, which represents 4,000 nurses and caregivers in Maine, held a rally over the issue Dec. 21, according to an MSNA news release. Nurses also "delivered lumps of coal" to Mr. Sanders. 

Union members finalized their contract in September. The hospital told Becker's in a statement that the deal "spells out the terms and conditions of employment for nurses at Maine Medical Center, including compensation and benefits. All parties are subject to the contract's terms and conditions as a matter of federal law." Maine Medical Center also said the union made no proposals during negotiations regarding paid leave, and that "had such a proposal been made MMC would have considered and bargained over it in good faith. Our collective bargaining agreement outlines the process for working together to find a resolution." 

Overall, the hospital contends the paid leave was sunsetted when the contract took effect, and therefore not terminated. 

The union contends the hospital illegally made unilateral changes to current benefits. Nurses contend the hospital acted illegally regardless of whether the specific changes are stated in the union contract, and because the nurses are already members of the MSNA.

"I am sorry to report that the theft of these long-standing paid benefits from Maine Med nurses has already had a devastating impact on us," Katrine Fesmire, an operating room nurse, said in the union news release.

The union said several nurses who are on bereavement leave were told they would receive paid leave, and that the termination of paid leave will create additional challenges for nurses who are on a jury or called away for military service.

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