Windham Hospital

Employees Picket at Windham Hospital as Union Negotiations Continue

NBC Universal, Inc.

Nurses and hospital staff at Windham Hospital haven’t reached a contract agreement after six months of negotiations and picketed out front Monday.

Employees, including lab technicians and food services, held signs and marched in a circle today outside the hospital Monday.

Leaders for the two unions representing them said their contracts ended in December.

They said they went to Hartford Healthcare last June, into July, to try and start negotiating but Hartford Healthcare, the parent company of the hospital, refused to begin negotiations until the end of the year.

“The problem is, is that every time we do sit down, there seems to be little movement on their side or preparedness to come forward with any changes or amendments to their proposals. So even when we do sit down, we don't seem to see any real work and really trying to find a collective agreement between both employer and employee,” Andrea Riley, RN and president of the Windham Federation of Professional Nurses, said.

Windham Hospital President Donna Handley said the hospital is “disappointed that the Windham Federation of Nurses, AFT Local 5041, and Windham United, AFT Local 5099, have not yet agreed upon new collective bargaining agreements for our nurses and for our technical, non-professional, skilled maintenance, and clerical colleagues, respectively.”

The union said they do not want to be forced to work overtime.

Nurses are working eight- or 12-hour shifts and they are not being told until the end of their shift that they must work 16 hours that day, they said.

“That is a huge conflict with patient care and safety. It's known to be detrimental to patient care, and even can result in patient deaths,” Riley said.

Heather Howlett, president of WCMH United employees said they are “looking for the best care for our patients and when we’re exhausted, we just can’t give that.”

Another of the union’s other major concerns is health insurance.

“It’s a really bad plan. We work for a hospital, for a huge company. We should have good insurance. We shouldn’t be afraid to go to the doctors. I have members who are skipping medications because they can’t afford it. They don’t go to the doctors because they can’t afford it,” Howlett said.

The next bargaining sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Windham Hospital is committed to ensuring its patients, visitors, and colleagues are safe and undisturbed during this event,” Handley said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming negotiations and continuing to work with the federal mediator who has been assisting the parties, as we know that collective bargaining agreements are achieved through compromise at the bargaining table, and not on a picket line.”

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