Connecticut nurse contract good for workers and patients

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Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, health technicians and technologists at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., ratified a tentative contract agreement on Feb. 3. The ratification marks the end of a labor dispute that began in November when the previous contract covering the nearly 800 members of AFT Locals 5049 and 5051 expired.

"I believe both sides are gratified and encouraged to have this difficult period behind us," says L+M President and CEO Bruce D. Cummings. "We have come together in a renewed spirit of unity and cooperation going forward. We respect and value all of our workers, believe we offer a quality working environment and look forward to continuing to provide compassionate high-quality care to our patients throughout our community."

"Our efforts produced more than just new contracts," says Lisa D'Abrosca, a registered nurse at L+M Hospital. "They are also blueprints for our caregivers and hospital administration to change our relationship for the better." D'Abrosca is the president of AFT Local 5049, which represents approximately 540 RNs at the hospital.

"Our patients, their families and our community are the winners here," says Stephanie Johnson, an L+M Hospital sleep lab technician. "Our agreement is a renewed commitment by labor and management to the hospital's mission, which is to improve the health of this region." Johnson is the president of AFT Local 5051, which represents the hospital's approximately 250 licensed practical nurses and technicians.

The agreement encompassed issues that were currently before the National Labor Relations Board, as well as new collective bargaining agreements for the workers represented by the two local unions. While the parties agreed not to share specific details of the agreement, there are four key elements of the settlement and the new contracts.

First, all hearings before the NLRB and any other actions related to the labor dispute have now been withdrawn with the ratification vote by the unions' combined membership.

"It's a clean slate," Cummings says. "Our focus now is looking forward, not back."

"Our commitment to work together going forward is based on our expectation that mutual respect and true collaboration will continue to prevail," D'Abrosca says.

Second, the parties have reached an agreement on any issues related to the previous transfer of work from the hospital's former OB clinic and outpatient psychiatric care to physician offices within the community.

Third, the parties agreed on the specifics of any additional transfers that may occur during the duration of the new contract, which expires June 30, 2016.

The fourth element focused on a set of mutually agreed upon core principles regarding the potential future organizing by employees of L+M Healthcare operating entities (L+M Hospital, Westerly Hospital, L+M Medical Group and the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeastern Connecticut) to form a union within AFT Connecticut or any of its affiliates.

"Our agreement ensures that caregivers' voices will be heard and their concerns will be addressed going forward," Johnson says.

"As we've said many times, the healthcare landscape is changing almost daily," Cummings says. "We are focused on continuing to build the strength of the L+M system, and our employees are essential to that process." [AFT Connecticut]

February 4, 2014