Nurses and technicians at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London went on strike in the pouring rain Wednesday after their unions and the hospital failed to reach an agreement.
About 800 nurses and technicians walked off the job Wednesday after weeks of contentious negotiations. It was the first strike in 100 years. The strike is expected to last until Saturday, but hospital officials said they plan to lock out striking workers until a new contract is reached.
On Tuesday, the unions notified the hospital that workers would begin to strike at 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to officials at Lawrence and Memorial. And strike they did, heading into the pouring rain to protest the transferring of their jobs.
Union officials said the hospital has been laying off union workers and shifting work from Lawrence and Memorial to shell corporations that operate clinic outside of the hospital setting.
"It's scary," said Barbara Sadowski, a nurse at Lawrence and Memorial. "I don't even have the words for how bad this is."
"The issue we're fighting for is not wages or benefits," said Lisa D'Abrosca, president of the local union chapter. "It's not economic in nature whatsoever. It has to do with our patient care."
Hospital officials, on the other hand, said the disagreement stems from the union's "unyielding demand for 100 percent assured job security," alleging that the union is refusing to have a productive dialogue.
"Our proposal that was on the table guaranteed job security to more than 90 percent of the nurses and more than 50 percent of the techs for the length of the proposed contract, which was three years," said hospital spokesman Michael O'Farrell.
O'Farrell added on Wednesday, "Not one of the proposals that has made it to the union has been brought to the membership."
Bruce Cummings, hospital president and CEO, also said the union has been unreasonable.
"Negotiators for the hospital have worked as hard as possible and have been as flexible as possible in the hopes of avoiding a strike," said Cummings, on Tuesday. "As negotiations continued in recent days, it became increasingly apparent that union representatives were not prepared to negotiate in good faith."
"Good faith" is a term used more than once in reference to the failed negotiations.
According to New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, "The hospital is not negotiating in good faith with the union. They walked away from the table and I think this could be expected considering they approached the city months ago to try to rent space for strike replacement workers.”
Connecticut Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey released a statement Wednesday in support of stirking workers. The statement reads as follows:
“Good faith negotiations between labor and management are the foundation of reaching a fair contract, but when one side – Lawrence & Memorial in this case – shuts down talks well before the understood deadline and threatens a lockout, the entire process has been compromised and patient health is threatened. These bully-like tactics by the management of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital expose a lack of commitment to both of their missions: to serve their patients as well as to provide a fair labor contract for their employees. It is time for them to come back to the bargaining table.”
Union representatives said they did not want to strike and attempted to reach a resolution.
Despite the strike, Lawrence and Memorial has continued to operate with minor glitches and the temporary cancellation of procedures such as elective surgeries.
The next negotiating session is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 3.