Saint Vincent Hospital CEO refutes rumors of end to 8-month nurses strike

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Carolyn Jackson, CEO of Worcester, Mass.-based Saint Vincent Hospital, is denying rumors that a deal has been reached to end a nurses strike that has been ongoing since March 8, the Telegram & Gazette reported Nov. 12.  

"We are aware of numerous rumors circulating about the Massachusetts Nurses Association strike against Saint Vincent Hospital, and the hospital wants to be clear: there is no agreement and no deal to announce," Ms. Jackson said Nov. 12 in a memo to staff shared with Becker's Hospital Review.

Ms. Jackson also said there have been no bargaining sessions since August and accused the union of refusing to engage in discussions about return-to-work agreements.

"The MNA has been the source of rumors and disinformation throughout the strike, lying as easily to the nurses they represent as they lie to the public," the memo reads. "We believe the latest rumors are yet another MNA tactic to destabilize the hospital's current caregivers, which puts the public at risk of further access delays."

Ms. Jackson ended the memo by saying the hospital is open to resuming negotiations while staying committed to permanent replacement nurses who were brought in during the walkout.

David Schildmeier, a spokesperson for the union, had no comment when contacted by the Telegram & Gazette.

Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association have been on strike for eight months.

In addition to bringing in permanent replacement nurses, Saint Vincent has reduced services during the strike, a decision recently criticized by Massachusetts state Rep. David LeBoeuf, who called it "reckless."

The primary remaining issue in bargaining is the union's demand for striking nurses to return to work in their previous roles. 

The hospital said all striking nurses who want to return to work will have a job to go back to, and it estimates that 85 percent of nurses will get to return to their former positions.

But the union has called the hospital's back-to-work provision unfair to nurses and said the hospital's "replacement of highly skilled nurses with lesser qualified staff would undermine all the patient safety gains the parties had negotiated."

The union also is demanding that complaints filed against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board — including one over the hospital's Oct. 17 decision to implement its "last, best and final offer" in negotiations — be resolved as a part of any deal to return to work.  

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