Saint Vincent nurses' strike to become longest in Massachusetts history: 9 details

Kelly Gooch -

With no talks scheduled, a strike at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., is poised to become the longest nurses' strike in Massachusetts history, the Boston Business Journal reported Aug. 30.

Saint Vincent nurses have been striking since March 8. On Aug. 31, it will be the longest nurses' strike in Massachusetts history at 177 days, surpassing a 176-day strike by nurses at Fitchburg-based Burbank Hospital in 1980, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Nine details about the strike:

1. The latest talks between Saint Vincent nurses and the hospital's owner, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, ended without a resolution regarding striking nurses returning to work in their previous roles.

2. The Massachusetts Nurses Association said nurses were prepared to agree to the hospital's last offer regarding staffing and believed they were close to a tentative agreement that would end the strike and allow nurses to reenter the hospital. However, no settlement was reached Aug. 19 after four days of talks with a federal mediator.

3. At issue in the dispute is a "back to work" provision that the union says will displace more than 100 nurses, "replacing experienced nurses in positions now held by newly graduated or novice nurses working in areas where they should never be allowed to provide care independently."

4. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has also filed various complaints against Saint Vincent with the National Labor Relations Board regarding the hospital's actions related to the strike. The union contends those need to be resolved as a part of any return-to-work agreement. 

5. Saint Vincent has hired more than 160 permanent replacement nurses during the strike. These include union-represented nurses who have provided patient care during the strike, as well as nurses who joined the hospital during the walkout.

6. In an Aug. 24 news release, the hospital said the decision to hire permanent replacement nurses was based on the prolonged strike, and it has hired nurses in accordance with the law, and without bias or discrimination, to ensure access to critical services.

7. The hospital said it has offered several accommodations to resolve the union's issue of permanent replacements, including a guarantee that striking nurses who want a job will have one. Saint Vincent also vowed that it won't force any nurse in a current position to lose his or her role.

8. Overall, Saint Vincent estimated 85 percent to 90 percent of returning nurses will return to their same roles, although that estimate can fluctuate as more permanent replacement nurses are hired.

9. Hospital and union representatives continue to call upon each other to help end the strike.

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