Hundreds of nurses at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Connecticut will return to work Thursday after being locked out for 18 days following a 4-day strike that began on November 27th.
“We want our staff back doing what they do best and for which they are so needed — caring for patients and serving the community,” said Lawrence + Memorial Hospital CEO Bruce D. Cummings in a statement released Tuesday.
The union and the hospital have not yet reached an agreement on a new contract.
“The decision by L+M to end the lockout is a very encouraging action that means there is positive movement by both sides to end the impasse. While the two sides negotiate, allowing trained nurses and staff to return to their posts will ensure that patients in southeastern Connecticut receive the high-quality care they deserve,” said U.S. Representative Joe Courtney.
Brief post-strike lockouts are common due to minimum contract lengths for temporary replacement nurses, this one was unusual due to its length and the tactics employed by the hospital to persuade nurses to ratify its proposed contract. In the days after the strike ended, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital sent letters to locked out nurses informing them that their healthcare insurance benefits were being immediately cancelled. While some protested that the cancellations did not meet a legal requirement to provide 20 days notice, the hospital reportedly claimed that the requirement did not apply to it because it was self-insured. Hospital representatives failed to show up at a negotiation meeting scheduled on December 10th and later offered nurses and techs bonuses of $250 to $1000 each if their contract offer was ratified by Monday. Union leaders rejected the offer and and filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“The corporation’s latest ‘offer’ is little more than an attempted bribe of our nurses and techs,” said Kim Brault, a nuclear medicine technologist in L&M Hospital’s nuclear medicine department, PET/CT center.
“This was never about money. This has always been about patient care,” said Dale Cunningham, a registered nurse in L&M Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.