Nurses and Backus Hospital Reach Agreement After 2-Day Strike

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Backus Hospital has reached an agreement with nurses at the hospital after 12 hours of negotiations and a two-day strike, according to the union representing the nurses.

On Saturday, the union said in a tweet that the agreement was reached overnight.

Gov. Ned Lamont released a statement on Saturday afternoon applauding the completion of the agreement.

“This agreement represents the renewed partnership between incredible nurses who have been true heroes during this pandemic on the front lines since day one, and a hospital that has served the region well for months," Lamont said in a statement.

"These nurses fought for a fair deal and that was the end result. I want to thank the leadership of both Hartford Healthcare and AFT for coming to the table and hammering this out over the previous week," he added.

The president of Backus Hospital issued a statement in response to the agreement.

“We are pleased that ongoing negotiations between the hospital and the nurses’ union have led to an agreement on a fair and responsible contract. We greatly value and respect our nurse colleagues and the critical roles they play in our hospital. This is why we have worked hard to seek an agreement to allow us to continue to work together to fight the pandemic and protect our community," Donna Handley said.

Congressman Joe Courtney also released a statement about the agreement saying in part:

"The new agreement shows great respect for the outstanding work of our nurses. Their services are more important than ever now during COVID-19, and this four-year deal couldn’t have come at a better time. Looking forward to a unified effort to crush this virus," he said.

Officials did not release specifics about what is included in the agreement.

More than 400 nurses at Backus Hospital went on strike on Tuesday, two days after the hospital and the union representing the nurses failed to reach a new contract agreement during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses at Backus Hospital walked off the job on Tuesday for a two-day strike after contract negotiations broke down earlier this week.

The Backus Federation of Nurses, under AFT Connecticut, launched the strike Tuesday morning with a rally outside the hospital.

“Nurses do not take the decision to strike lightly," said Shanon Pereira, a registered nurse at Backus Hospital. "We choose to strike only when it becomes a matter of life and death for our patients.”

The nurses said that they would rather be with their patients, but called the strike a "last resort."

“We are only out here because we have to be. It is not because we want to be,” said Meagan Muriel, a registered nurse at Backus Hospital.

Hospital officials said they made every effort to avoid a strike. In a statement, Donna Handley, president of Backus Hospital, said that they held 23 bargaining sessions and used federal mediators to address issues.

"This is heartbreaking," Handley wrote in the statement. "The union, unfortunately, is prepared to strike, causing an unprecedented degree of disruption during an unprecedented health crisis."

Nurses at Backus Hospital are on a two day strike. More than 400 healthcare professionals are protesting what they call unfair working practices, staffing and wages at Hartford HealthCare. A spokesperson for Hartford Care said every effort was made to avoid a strike and the hospital will remain open.

During the rally on Tuesday, nurses said they have not been provided proper access to personal protective equipment. They also raised concerns over staffing.

"We cannot allow unfair labor practices to continue," said Pereira.

According to Handley, Backus has worked to address issues including PPE, staffing, and accommodations for breastfeeding. Additionally, Handley wrote that the hospital has offered "significant" wage increases for all RNs over the three-year contract, amounting to 12.5% over three years.

The union representing the nurses said this week was the first time Backus nurses have gone on strike.

The strike happened as the Norwich-area is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

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