Tufts Nurses Returning to Work Amid High Tensions

The largest nursing strike in Massachusetts history came to an end Monday as hundreds of striking Tufts Medical Center nurses went back to work.

The nurses went on strike Wednesday after failed contact negotiations regarding staffing levels, salary and pension. 

They planned to strike for 24 hours, but the hospital locked them out until Monday. They returned to work at 7 a.m. 

"I'm feeling very empowered," said Barbara Miller, a nurse at Tufts. "We're going back to do what we love to do."

"All of this has become extremely contentious, but we're professional and we respect what we need to do and we hope that we can get respect from the administration," added nurse Mary Havlicek Cormacchia.

The effort was relatively peaceful until Sunday morning, when Tufts Medical Center administrators said supporters of the striking workers threw coffee on buses trying to bring replacement nurses to work at Tufts Medical Center. 

State police say they responded to an incident at a hotel, but didn't report any violence. 

This was the first nurses strike in the state in 30 years. It was also the largest. It is expected there will be a larger crowd at 7 a.m. when nurses start their shift. 

"What we do know is that everyone in this community is committed to patient care," said Sean Sullivan, Tufts vice president of human resources. Folks when they come through the doors from wherever they've been for the last five days... we are absolutely confident they're committed to patients and their families."

The hospital spent more than $6 million on the strike.

Tufts Medical Center President and CEO Michael Wagner said last week was "difficult for everyone," but he remains positive that relationships can be rebuilt.

No further negotiations have been scheduled. Both sides said they are waiting on a federal mediator to schedule a meeting so they can resume negotiations.

"We're all looking to find a solution for the current contract negotiations," Chief Nursing Officer Terry Hudson-Jinks said. "I know we will. As far as refusing to meet, we haven't been asked to meet. We work through a federal mediator. Our expectation in the days to come is we'll be laying out a plan to move forward." 

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