After a round of discussions on Saturday, officials said negotiations are slated to continue between Tenet Healthcare and nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital, who have been striking since early March.
Dallas-based Tenet, which owns Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, made a proposal on Saturday that “opens the door to a substantive discussion” regarding staffing levels, the main issue cited by nurses, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Nurses have been striking since March 8, calling for staffing improvements they said are needed to ensure the safe care of patients. Saturday marks day 55 of striking, the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts in two decades, the MNA said.
Now, the nurses negotiating committee plans to take a few days to meet and evaluate the hospital’s proposal, the MNA said in a statement. Nurses expect to be back at the table at 10 a.m. Wednesday with a comprehensive response on what the nurses need to settle the contract and end the strike.
The MNA said nurses at this time will not discuss the specifics of what the hospital has proposed, but called it a “positive step in the process.”
Saint Vincent Hospital in a statement said its offer to the nurses was a “strong staffing proposal” that contains UMass Memorial Medical Center’s staffing language. That language has been publicly praised by the MNA on at least a dozen occasions in the last two months, the hospital said.
Saturday was the second round of negotiations. On Monday, a round of negotiations ended without agreement after Tenet offered to create an audit committee to hold the hospital accountable to the staffing ratios. The offer didn’t directly increase staffing, a main demand from nurses, the union said. The offer did include wage increases.
“In the spirit of its willingness to negotiate, the hospital also left its last proposal on the table that includes an audit committee with expedited arbitration language. With this alternative proposal, the hospital has clearly given the MNA two very strong but very different options to choose from to work together to find a path forward,” read the statement from Saint Vincent Hospital.
The new proposal with the UMass Memorial staffing language also maintains the same prospective wage increases from the offer presented on April 26. That includes a retroactive pay increase for full-time and part-time nurses of 2% effective January 1, as well as enhanced wage increases for per diem nurses, the hospital said.
“The hospital has replaced the staffing language in this offer to match that of the UMass’s collective bargaining agreement. In doing so, the hospital removed previous language in its proposal around staffing, floating and flexing as well as staffing grids. This aligns with the staffing and flexing portions of the UMass contract that the MNA has continuously said they want at SVH. Today’s proposal does not include the staffing audit committee that was offered in the April 26 proposal, and the two should be considered as separate and distinct proposals,” the hospital’s statement continued.
While the MNA said nurses plan to head back to the negotiating table on Wednesday, the hospital said it has asked a mediator to urge the union to meet Monday afternoon.
“By giving the MNA two alternate proposals to consider, Saint Vincent Hospital has shown that it is serious about reaching an agreement while also reinforcing that it will not agree to across the board 4:1 staffing on medical surgical units. We remain hopeful that the MNA will place the interests of its members and our community above its own agenda, and will work with us to reach an agreement,” the hospital said.
The MNA represents 800 nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital. According to the hospital, about 15% of those nurses opted not to participate in the strike.
In the last year, nurses have filed more than 600 official “unsafe staffing” reports to inform management of patient care conditions that jeopardized the safety of their patients, according to the MNA.