End Of Worcester Nurses Strike Near With New Tentative Deal

·3 min read

WORCESTER, MA — One of the longest strikes in Massachusetts in recent memory may be over. Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital and hospital executives reached an agreement on Friday about bringing the nurses back to work, an issue that has kept the nurses on strike for several months.

The agreement came after a day of negotiations in Dorchester with former Boston mayor and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).

The nurses and the hospital came to an agreement over a new labor contract months ago. But nurses remained on the picket line over a return-to-work agreement. The hospital said at the time that as many as 15 percent of striking nurses would not be able to return to the jobs they left when the strike began in March.

The agreement reached Friday will allow the nurses to return to their original jobs, shifts and hours, according to the MNA.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaking to St. Vincent nurses in April. (Neal McNamara/Patch)
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaking to St. Vincent nurses in April. (Neal McNamara/Patch)

“With this agreement we can go back into that building with great pride not just in what we got in writing in the agreement, but for what we have built together as nurses who know they did everything they could for their patients and their community,” nurse and MNA negotiator Dominique Muldoon said in a news release. “Once this is ratified by the members, we are now committed to getting back into that building as soon as possible to provide the care our patients deserve.”

The St. Vincent nurses will now vote to accept the deal, which would allow them to begin returning to the hospital to work.

A St. Vincent spokesperson said the agreement reflects a sense of urgency around "clinical challenges" expected this winter — likely a reference to growing coronavirus cases and the spreading omicron variant.

"The new contract will provide enhancements for patients and our team, and we are glad to finally end the strike and put our sole focus back on patient care,” St. Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson said. “We will be setting a new tone at St. Vincent Hospital: We are one team with a common purpose. Not striking nurses versus replacement nurses. Not nurses versus management. One team united behind the principles of professionalism, excellence, accountability and compassion.”

The first day of the St. Vincent nurses strike on March 8. (Neal McNamara/Patch)
The first day of the St. Vincent nurses strike on March 8. (Neal McNamara/Patch)

Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital first walked off the job in March, demanding higher staffing levels inside the hospital and a new employment contract. The strike attracted national attention, and every federal elected official in Massachusetts, from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey to U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, has backed the nurses. Local politicians have also walked the picket line and asked hospital executives to end the strike.

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty called for an end to the strike as recently as last week during a press conference revealing a surge in local coronavirus cases.

According to the MNA, the 285-day strike was the longest by nurses in more than a decade, and the second-longest in state history.

This article originally appeared on the Worcester Patch

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