UVM Medical Center, nurses union continue negotiations without mediator

University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and unionized nurses have agreed to continue negotiations this week ahead of a planned July 12 strike, but will do so face to face, officials confirmed to Becker's Hospital Review.

Currently, negotiations are slated for July 9 and 10. UVM Medical Center spokesperson Michael Carrese said the hospital is also open to additional bargaining sessions so an agreement can be reached and a strike prevented.

"We continue to suggest other meeting formats that commonly produce positive movement in labor negotiations, including smaller group discussions," he said.

Mr. Carrese said the union decided it is no longer willing to voluntarily use a mediator, so the talks will be face to face. He called the decision "disappointing."

"Mediation has been a successful approach in past negotiations, and was initiated after months of face-to-face negotiations were not producing results," he said. "We hope during these sessions to receive a formal counter proposal on wages in response to the offer we put on the table last weekend."

The latest scheduled negotiations come ahead of a planned 48-hour strike. More than 1,800 UVM Medical Center nurses, who are represented by the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, issued a strike notice July 2. The strike is slated to begin July 12, three days after the nurses' contract expires. 

The union has said pay and staffing levels are among the remaining key sticking points in negotiations, reports VTDigger. VFNHP has proposed a 24 percent pay increase over the three-year contract; the medical center has proposed 13 percent with more increases depending on the type of nursing the worker does. Nurses have claimed what they deem low pay at the hospital negatively affected employee recruitment, according to the report. Eileen Whalen, president of UVM Medical Center, has told VTDigger nurses at the medical center earn pay that is consistent with national pay rates.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has inserted himself into the debate, acting as an advocate for the nurses.

During a recent news conference, he said: "I find it hard to believe that the hospital has enough money to pay nearly $11 million to 15 administrators including more than $2 million to the CEO, but doesn't have enough money to pay their nurses the same wages as nurses earn elsewhere, where the cost of living is in fact lower."

"To avoid that strike, the hospital must take seriously the nurses' demands for fair and competitive wages," he added.

If the strike does occur, Ms. Whalen has said the medical center "will be prepared to continue providing quality care to our patients and families" through temporary replacement nurses.


More articles on human capital and risk: 
Nurses, CHS reach agreement after strike at Pennsylvania hospital
University of Vermont Medical Center nurses intend to strike July 12
Atrium increases minimum wage, affecting 7.5K+ employees

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