Nurses Beat Back Retaliatory Insurance Increases
Patient safety issues still unresolved
Nurses at Millinocket Regional Hospital have ended their employer’s bid to impose hikes on the nurses’ insurance premiums. The increases went into effect on August 1 and are believed by nurses to be in retaliation for their patient safety demands during contract bargaining.
MSNA Unit 1082 President (and Bargaining Team Member) Monique Babineau said: “We told management over and over that what they were doing to us was illegal (referring to the insurance increases). But they wouldn’t listen to us.” Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to unilaterally change wages, benefits or working conditions for employees who are part of a union.
Sue Lundstrum, Unit 1082 Chief Steward said: “This was really hard on us. Some of our co-workers had to leave because the hikes were so steep. And we really can’t afford to lose any nurses right now. Our patients need all the help they can get.” Nurse Lundstrom is also a member of the Bargaining Team.
Millinocket Regional Hospital has now agreed that it will not only restore the previous insurance rates, but also pay back the excess premiums that nurses paid since the new rates were illegally imposed.
Dyana Gallant, another Bargaining Team member stated: “This was an important victory for all of the nurses at the hospital, but just one among many victories that we need to win before we can settle this contract. We need better staffing for our patients and other safety commitments from MRH before this thing will be done.”
The nurses at Millinocket overwhelmingly passed a “strike authorization” vote on July 25. The Maine State Nurses Association filed a federal “Unfair Labor Practice (ULP)” charge against the employer on this and other issues.