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Windham Hospital nurses’ union files notice to strike

Windham Hospital
Nicole Leonard
/
Connecticut Public Radio
Windham Hospital on Mansfield Avenue in the Willimantic section of Windham on Nov. 14, 2021.

The Windham Hospital Federation of Professional Nurses, AFT Local 5041 provided notice to Hartford HealthCare’s Windham Hospital of a strike from Sept. 22 to Sept. 24 if the union and the hospital can’t reach an agreement. The local represents 100 nurses at the hospital.

“The hospital froze the [periodic step increase in wages, which includes an annual wage increase] and wanted to take it away in our last contract, and they felt like going to what’s called the market adjustment analysis [market conditions],” said Andrea Riley, an ER nurse and union president. “It doesn't give increases in wages fairly across the table.”

Riley said the union is asking the hospital to retain the step-based wage increases.

“To keep the nurses you need to provide a wage that is commensurate to the cost of living,” she said. “So a nurse that’s got five or six years’ experience is stuck at this current moment at a three-year experience pay level.”

In a written statement to Connecticut Public Radio, Donna Handley, CEO of Windham Hospital, said the hospital has responded to union demands, including health insurance premium contribution relief amounting to an additional 2% of wages, and elimination of mandatory overtime, which was the nurses’ first priority.

But Riley said the offer came a little late.

“When the nurses have to go and tell the hospital that you are losing nurses and that is dangerous, and the hospital looks at that as a concession, that’s a safety [issue] and a red flag,” Riley said. “We lost [a] large number of nurses in the early months of this year because of that alone. They physically exhausted the nurses and made them sick.”

Handley said the hospital asked the union in late August for dates when it would be available to return to negotiations. “The union has not responded with any bargaining dates,” she said. “We remain ready to meet.”

Riley responded that the union is ready to meet “if the hospital comes back to the table ready to bargain in good faith on our counter proposal,” but said that “so far the hospital has said they will not change their proposal.”

Sujata Srinivasan is a Senior Producer for 'Where We Live,' the flagship news-based, call-in talk show from Connecticut Public Radio, featuring deep dives at the intersection of data-driven narrative and investigative long-form journalism. She's also an editor for the Connecticut Public newsroom.