Saint Vincent, nurses union reach tentative deal to end 9-month strike

Worcester, Mass.-based Saint Vincent Hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association have reached a tentative contract, paving the way for an end to a strike that has lasted nearly 300 days.  

The tentative deal, reached Dec. 17, guarantees striking nurses will be able to resume previous positions while permanent replacement nurses hired during the strike retain their current roles, according to hospital and union statements. The hospital, which is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, expects to restore striking nurses to their previous positions once union members ratify the tentative agreement.

"The hospital believes every nurse who chose to work at Saint Vincent during the strike is a hero to this community, and they should be celebrated for their role in delivering quality care during this challenging time," the hospital's statement said. "Additionally, the decision to allow striking nurses to return to their original positions followed careful consideration of the clinical challenges expected this winter throughout Massachusetts, and the resultant need for as many nurses as possible to provide quality care for our community."

The strike by nurses at Saint Vincent has been ongoing since March 8. The primary remaining issue in bargaining has been the union's demand for striking nurses to return to work in their previous roles. 

A tentative agreement was reached after two weeks of discussions with federal mediators, and it was settled Dec. 17 at an in-person session mediated by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The union praised the agreement, which it said not only guarantees striking nurses the right to return to their original positions, but also provides staffing improvements the nurses need to end the walkout.

"We are so grateful for and humbled by the efforts of Secretary Walsh … and so pleased to have finally reached an agreement that we believe provides us with what we need to better care for our patients that we will now take to our members for a vote to ratify and thus call an end to our historic strike," Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the hospital nurses' local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a news release. "This agreement, and the improvements it includes, was hard fought, and represents a true victory, not only for the nurses, but more importantly, for our patients and our community, who will have access to better nursing care, which was why our members walked that strike line for the last nine months through four seasons."

The union said it is not disclosing specific details of the pact until it can be shared with the rank-and-file members and a ratification vote is held. 

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the Saint Vincent strike is among the longest nurses strikes in the history of Massachusetts.

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