The strike is over, but tensions could persist as Saint Vincent nurses return to work with nurses hired to replace them

Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., voted to ratify a new contract Jan. 3, officially ending a 301-day strike. However, there could be some tension as nurses who went on strike return to work and work alongside nurses hired to replace them during the walkout, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

"Returning to work and then navigating a situation where I think a good chunk of replacement nurses are continuing ... that's going to be a struggle," Steve Striffler, PhD, director of the Labor Resource Center, College of Liberal Arts, at University of Massachusetts Boston, told the newspaper. "[(Nurses]) are going to be returning to work with people who were trying to replace you."

Additionally, replacement workers have filed a petition to officially decertify the Massachusetts Nurses Association as the union representing nurses at the hospital. The petition was filed after the union and hospital reached a tentative agreement Dec. 17 to end the strike. The union at the time said it had "little comment on the situation except to say that we are focused on moving to ratify the historic agreement we just reached."

While some tension could exist, the hospital, which is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, and nurses who went on strike are determined to make the return-to-work process as smooth as possible, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

Nurse Dominique Muldoon, RN, who was on the bargaining committee, told the newspaper, "There could be some tension, but I think it could be worked through." Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson told the newspaper that Saint Vincent "need[s] to make sure those relationships heal as best as possible."

Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association ratified the tentative agreement after nearly 10 months and more than 43 negotiating sessions. The contract guarantees nurses who went on strike will be able to resume working in their previous positions while permanent replacement nurses hired during the strike retain their current roles.

Nurses and Ms. Jackson said nurses who went on strike haves been asked to return and were given a specific time when they will be recalled to work, according to the Telegram & Gazette. They have a deadline of Jan. 15 to indicate whether they are coming back, and those who come back have until Jan. 22 to return to work and attend a reorientation session. Ms. Jackson said Saint Vincent will consider it a resignation if a nurse does not meet those deadlines, the newspaper reported.

According to the Telegram & Gazette, the hospital has indicated that the reorientation process will focus on healing and unity.

To read the full report, click here.

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