Tenet Massachusetts hospital makes 'final' offer as nurses' strike nears 5th month

Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., said it has offered the union representing about 800 nurses at the facility a "last, best and final" proposal addressing staffing, compensation and workplace safety.

The hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, announced the proposal Aug. 5, as a nurses' strike that has resulted in reduced services at Saint Vincent approaches its fifth month.  

After reviewing patient acuity and input from workers, the hospital said it offered more staffing investments, reflected in its latest proposal to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The investments include an increase of resource nurses from 11 units to 20 units in the facility, as well as an increase in nurse staffing "in multiple units where patient acuity has increased since the last time the staffing guidelines were updated in the contract," the hospital stated. 

Saint Vincent said it also proposed an increase in nurse staffing in ares of units where there are more patients.

Economic and workplace safety items in the proposal include 8 percent to 35 percent pay increases between now and the end of the contract in 2024; the addition of a 3 percent lump sum bonus on hours worked in 2021; the addition of a special lump sum bonus for the most senior nurses; and a boost in the amount Saint Vincent pays for benefits for nurses working 24 hours or more hours per week.

The proposal also includes more workplace safety measures agreed upon with the union, according to the hospital. 

"Our last, best and final offer remains generous across wages and benefits, and includes extensive investments in nurse staffing, building upon the hospital's 'very high' nurse staffing rating by U.S. News & World Report," Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson said in a news release. "Over 200 nurses have crossed the picket line to care for patients, and we continue to welcome additional nurses each day. It is time for the MNA bargaining committee to accept this offer or put it to a vote overseen by the federal mediator."

The strike at Saint Vincent started March 8, with staffing being a key issue of contention. The union has sought more staffing on most floors, particularly on the medical-surgical floors, telemetry floors and in the emergency department. It also seeks a resource nurse on all floors without or with a reduced patient assignment.

On Aug. 5, the union expressed disappointment about the latest proposal and said it contains inadequate staffing provisions that don't provide the needed improvements to keep patients safe and end the strike.

"This is in no way represents a good faith effort to find a resolution to this crisis, and just demonstrates Tenet's callous disregard for their nurses, and more importantly, for our patients and our community, who's future health and safety are at the center of this dispute," Marlena Pellegrino, RN, co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in a news release. "It is only through good faith negotiations not hard-headed ultimatums that a fair agreement can and will be reached."

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