There was a last-ditch effort on Tuesday to stop what would be the first nurses strike in Boston in more than 30 years.
Officials at Tufts Medical Center met with the Massachusetts Nurses Association at a federal mediator's office for a final attempt at avoiding a strike. Both sides are looking to reach a contract agreement for the more than 1,200 nurses on staff at Tufts Medical Center.
If the negotiation effort is unsuccessful, nurses are poised to go on strike at 6:59 a.m. Wednesday.
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“If both sides are willing to talk, we’ll stay here as long as it takes,” said Registered Nurse Barbara Tiller of the Tufts Nurses Bargaining Unit.
A day earlier, Tufts held a press conference outlining its plans to keep the hospital operating normally in the event of a strike.
“We have already brought more than 320 registered nurses into Boston, they’re specialized and they’re credentialed,” Chief Nursing Officer Terry Hudson-Jinks said.
Both sides said they’re hopeful for an eleventh hour deal, but not optimistic.
“I think we’re very far apart actually,” Tiller said.
The three key areas of disagreement are wages, pension benefits and staffing levels.
“They believe they can hold Tufts Medical Center hostage for more money, money that our organization simply does not have,” Tufts Medical Center CEO Dr. Michael Wagner said.
The hospital said under a $30 million offer, it has added 160 nurses, increased support staff hours, improved the pension benefits and offered a 10.5 percent raise.
But the union said that still puts Tufts nurses well below other Boston hospitals.
“A nurse can come here, get trained and then leave and go anywhere else in the city and then make $3 to 10 more an hour,” Tiller said.
“The response from the MNA bargaining committee has been it’s not good enough, we want more money, and our response is, there is no more money,” Wagner said.
If no deal is reached by Wednesday morning, this would be a one day strike by the union.
But the hospital has said if nurses don’t show up for work on Wednesday, they will not be allowed to work for the following four days, because the replacement nurses required a minimum five days of work.
Tuesday afternoon, the nurses at Tufts issued the folowing statement:
"This morning at about 11:30 a.m., the Tufts nurses presented hospital management with a comprehensive off-the-record package proposal. That proposal included some concessions on the part of the nurses, as well as opportunities for the hospital to save millions of dollars in pension-related costs. These proposals (as part of the package) would allow the hospital to add staffing positions and resources that would dramatically improve nurses’ ability to provide Tufts patients with the quality of care they deserve.
"Since submitting that package proposal to management at 11:30 a.m., the nurses have been waiting for word from the hospital. They hope management will return to the table soon and that a fair settlement that helps patients, nurses, and the hospital can be achieved."