Tenet, Massachusetts nurses union fail to reach agreement

Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and the union representing 800 nurses at the facility were unable to reach an agreement after meeting for their first negotiations since nurses went on strike March 8, according to both sides.

The hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, met with the Massachusetts Nurses Association April 26, after a federal mediator scheduled the talks.

The hospital did not sufficiently address staffing improvements needed to ensure safer care and end the strike, the union contends in an April 27 news release. It also contends the hospital's latest proposal included little change from a previous one and did not resolve concerns nurses raised before the strike and communicated to the federal mediator.

"The only change to Tenet's pre-strike proposal was to call for the creation of a committee to review the current insufficient staffing levels every quarter, with no commitment to actually improve conditions to ensure safer patient care," said the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The hospital defended its proposal in an April 26 statement, saying it included a generous wage and benefits offer as well as staffing concessions from Saint Vincent's March 1 proposal. The hospital said the proposal also included new language to address the union's claim that the hospital fails to comply with the staffing guidelines.

Saint Vincent proposed an audit committee that it said would hold the hospital accountable to staffing grids. The hospital said the process involves hiring an independent auditor, chosen by the hospital and union, and adopts an expedited arbitration process proposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

"We have proven with data that our hospital is safe. We have proven with data that we meet our staffing guidelines. We have proven with data that we staff better than most hospitals in the Commonwealth. We have proven with our proposal, that despite the costs of the strike, we respect our nurses enough to keep the wage/benefit offers on the table. And we have now proven we are willing to put in a contract that we will hold ourselves accountable going forward to all of this with our new proposal," said Saint Vincent.

The nurses rejected the hospital's proposal April 26, meaning the strike, now in its eighth week, will continue.

Staffing has been a key issue for the union throughout negotiations. The union seeks a 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio on medical/surgical floors and telemetry units, in most cases, as well as resource nurses and other staff on various units. The union also said it wants more emergency department staffing and more nurses to help with urgent and critical situations on the medical/surgical floors. 

Saint Vincent said it will not concede to an across-the-board 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio, but remains hopeful an agreement will be reached soon.

A follow-up negotiating session has not been scheduled. 


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