Administrators at Worcester's Saint Vincent Hospital are moving to end a monthslong nursing strike, saying Friday they are preparing to unilaterally implement their most recent offer this weekend.
But the Massachusetts Nurses Association fired back that the hospital's declaration of an impasse was illegal, and that it had filed a new charge of unfair labor practices with the federal board that oversees union disputes.
The strike at Saint Vincent Hospital has been going since March 8, when several hundred nurses walked off the job over what they called dangerous conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In September, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty called on the parent company of Saint Vincent Hospital, Tenet Healthcare, to bring an end to the ongoing nurse strike. He said the at the time that the issue put the community's hospital bed space at a critically low level during a health crisis.
"Let me be clear, this strike needs to end, and it needs to end now," Petty said.
The two sides have been negotiating for months -- about 220 days -- but no resolution has been reached. Now, hospital administrators are saying that it will invoke federal labor law to unilaterally implement an offer extended in August.
On Sunday, the 344 nurses who are or will soon be working at the hospital will work under the terms of the offer, administrators said, which include raises of up to 35% for some nurses, reduced out-of-pocket health care expenses, new workplace safety measures and more nurse staffing.
"The MNA has accepted the staffing levels in the hospital’s final offer, and staffing is no longer an issue in negotiations. Instead, the union is holding up an agreement to return hundreds of nurses back to work over a small number of nurses who may have to return to jobs that are different from their exact pre-strike positions," Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson said in a statement.
But the union said in its own statement that it views the move as retaliatory, and the declaration that the two sides are at an impasse as being in bad faith, since, among other things, it includes a bonus for nurses who have come in to replace striking staff.
"Tenet's decision has no impact on our strike on a legal or practical level as all it allows Tenet to do is to implement its last offer for those inside the hospital," said Marlena Pellegrino, co-chair of the union's local bargaining unit.
The union's statement said this was their 11th complaint to the National Labor Relations Board in the strike.