Saint Vincent implements 'last, best and final offer' as strike stretches past 7 months

Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., is implementing what it's calling its last, best and final offer in negotiations with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, according to union and hospital statements shared with Becker's.

The hospital said it has notified the union that it will be implementing the offer, which includes investments in nurse staffing, additional workplace safety measures, reduced out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, and raises of up to 35 percent for some nurses.

The hospital intends to officially implement the terms of the offer on Oct. 17. More than 340 nurses working or soon to be working at the hospital will begin working under these terms at that time, said Saint Vincent. The offer was initially presented to the Massachusetts Nurses Association in early August.

"Implementing our last, best and final offer is excellent news for all current and future Saint Vincent nurses. But this also makes clear what we have been saying for months: it's time for the MNA to call off the strike and allow its nurses to come back to work and take advantage of these very generous terms that will be in place," hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson said in a news release.

Saint Vincent nurses have been on strike since March 8, with the primary remaining issue being nurses' demand that they return to work in their previous roles

The hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, said all striking nurses who would like 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.

However, 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 be resolved as a part of any return-to-work agreement.  

In response to the announcement that the hospital will implement its last offer to the nurses, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has filed the 11th in a series of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, the union said. The union also called the announcement — as well as what the nurses contend is an illegal declaration of impasse in contract talks — "puzzling since it offers nothing new to the strike landscape." 

"As we mentioned earlier this week, Tenet's decision has no impact on our strike on a legal or practical level as all it allows Tenet to do is to implement its last offer for those inside the hospital. There will be no improvement in patient care due this decision because Tenet cannot provide the staffing needed to safely implement the improvements in patient care we thought we had negotiated in August," Marlena Pellegrino, a longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a news release.

Ms. Pellegrino added that the hospital's announcement has no effect on the union's effort to achieve safer patient care, a fair agreement related to nurses returning to work and a resolution of the outstanding complaints with the labor board.

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