Saint Vincent nurses say hospital is imposing 12-hour shifts, violating strike-ending agreement

The union representing nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., is accusing the hospital of violating the agreement to end a monthslong strike by pursuing a plan to unilaterally impose 12-hour shifts on its members.

In an April 26 news release, the Massachusetts Nurses Association contends that Saint Vincent, which is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, is pursuing the plan without legally negotiating the change.

"We have a union that affords us the right, and the hospital has the legal obligation to sit down with us to negotiate any change in our working conditions, and particularly in this case, when it involves a such a monumental change that can impact nurses' ability to practice safely and meet the needs of our patients, as well as our ability to meet our obligations to our families by maintaining a healthy work-life balance," Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a long-time nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses' local bargaining unit with the MNA, said in the release. 

She also called the hospital's approach "counterproductive and unnecessary, for in the end our patients will suffer the consequences as many dedicated and experienced Saint Vincent RNs may be forced to consider employment elsewhere."

Amid these concerns, the Massachusetts Nurses Association filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is seeking to prevent the implementation of the plan, scheduled for May 1.

In a statement posted on, Saint Vincent said the contract with the union allows the hospital to move nurses to 12-hour shifts with 30 days' notice, and that the hospital provided the union with "far more notice than the collective bargaining agreement requires." 

"Our decision to transition to 12-hour shifts is to enable the hospital to attract and retain as many nurses as possible," the hospital statement said.

The hospital statement also said that a majority of applicants and current employees strongly prefer three 12-hour shifts per week instead of five 8-hour shifts and noted that 12-hour shifts have become common for nurses working at many U.S. hospitals.

Additionally, Saint Vincent said it asked the MNA to identify any nurse with concerns about the move, but that the union "stalled and refused to cooperate."

"We continue to focus on moving forward in a productive manner with our nurses, and this is an example of our responsiveness to our nurses' desire for more flexibility," the hospital said. "Saint Vincent is committed to maintaining robust, highly rated nurse staffing and expanding services to care for the greater Worcester community."

The decision by Saint Vincent comes after a strike that began March 8, 2021, and lasted about 300 days. Nurses at Saint Vincent voted to keep their union and representation by the Massachusetts Nurses Association following the walkout.

The union contends the hospital's decision to change the shifts, announced a few months following the end of the strike, violates the agreement the hospital made to guarantee the same positions, shifts and hours worked nurses held before the strike.

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