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Nurses strike averted after UMass Medical management and nurses reach tentative contract agreement

The Republican-Massachusetts, 5/23/13

Kevin Koczwara, The Republican

WORCESTER - Thursday's nurses' strike at UMass Memorial Medical Center's University Campus was averted and a tentative three-year contract agreement was reached between hospital management and the union representing 1,100 nurses on Wednesday. The agreement was reached after 18 months of negotiations.

Nurses will work regular shifts at the hospital's University Campus on Thursday.

“Together with the MNA, we have reached an agreement that meets the objectives of the Medical Center and is also in the best interests of our nurses and most importantly the patients and the families in the communities we serve,” said Eric Dickson, MD, president and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care, in a statement.

“The three-year contract provides for significant improvements in staffing levels on all floors with limits on nurse's patient assignments we sought to ensure safe patient care,” said Margaret McLoughlin, RN, chair of the local bargaining unit for the nurses. “We believe this is a fair agreement that is a victory for all of us -- nurses, management and most important of all, our patients and community.”

Talks between the nurses union and hospital management were scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at the DCU Center in the hope of getting a new contract deal completed with Thursday's strike looming. UMass Medical had already reached a five-day, $4-million agreement with a replacement staffing agency in preparation for the potential strike after the nurses turned down management's contract offer last week.

Nurses at the UMass Memorial campus and UMass Hahnemann agreed to the same contract offer the university campus nurses turned down and called off their scheduled strikes.

Previously neogtiations on Monday between the nurses union and hospital management broke down and nurses at the university campus said the 24-hour strike was still scheduled for Thursday with no other anticipated talks between the two sides. Then, on Wednesday, the nurses union announced there would be talks from 2-6 p.m. in the hopes of reaching a deal. A three-year agreement was reached.

A vote by the nurses union is set for the coming days to ratify the contract.

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette*, the agreed contract will set an average nurse-to-patient ratio of 1-to-5 and the hospital agreed to hire 80 full-time nurse equivalents. Nurses recieved the same pension agreement as the Memorial campus nurses, but will reportedly get smaller raises of one percent over the next three years. 


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