Four days after reaching a tentative agreement with Tenet HealthCare on a new contract, about 700 nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester have set a contract ratification vote date, which could end their long strike.
On Friday night, the Massachusetts Nurses Association announced that U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh had mediated an all-day session at the IBEW Local 103 Hall in Dorchester, which led to a tentative contract agreement with the potential to end the nine-month strike.
On Tuesday morning, the union announced that nurses will hold an all-day contract ratification vote on Jan. 3 at the Teamsters Local 170 headquarters in Worcester, with a final count at 8:30 p.m.
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The nurses and Tenet have also agreed to suspend picketing outside the hospital from Dec. 20 until Jan. 4 "as a show of good faith, and to allow nurses and the police, who have been assisting with the picket lines, to spend time with their families during the holidays," according to the union.
The union has called the agreement a "true victory" but also said they didn't get everything they wanted. On Tuesday, the union said the details of the pact "are being withheld until the tentative agreement can be shared with the rank and file members and the ratification vote is held."
They did say the deal includes "staffing improvements" and a "back to work" provision that "guarantees all nurses who went out on strike the right to return to work in the same position, hours, and shift that they worked prior to the strike, while providing a process for the parties to follow in recalling the nurses back to work."
"With this agreement we can go back into that building with great pride not just in what we got in writing in the agreement, but for what we have built together as nurses who know they did everything they could for their patients and their community," Dominique Muldoon, a nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the bargaining unit, said in a statement Tuesday. "Once this is ratified by the members, we are now committed to getting back into that building as soon as possible to provide the care our patients deserve."
Hospital officials on Friday said that once the agreement is ratified, St. Vincent "will restore striking nurses to their previous positions while retaining all permanent replacement nurses in their current positions."
"The hospital believes every nurse who chose to work at Saint Vincent during the strike is a hero to this community, and they should be celebrated for their role in delivering quality care during this challenging time," the hospital said. "Additionally, the decision to allow striking nurses to return to their original positions followed careful consideration of the clinical challenges expected this winter throughout Massachusetts, and the resultant need for as many nurses as possible to provide quality care for our community."
According to the union, the St. Vincent's strike was the longest nurses strike nationally in over 15 years and the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history, with 285 days of picketing, community rallies and marches.