BANGOR, Maine — At 3 p.m. Wednesday, bargaining teams representing Eastern Maine Medical Center’s administration and the 830 registered nurses who work there ended a daylong contract negotiating session without any resolutions or agreements.
A statement released by EMMC community relations representative Tricia Denham said, “We believe we have a responsibility to negotiate a contract that is in the best interest of our patients, employees and the communities we serve… however negotiations concluded around 3 p.m. today with no significant developments.”
The two sides will meet again May 3.
“We told them we were willing to stay in talks as long as it takes,” said Judy Brown, head of the nurses union at EMMC. “We were hopeful that we were going to get some agreements on some essential issues, but in the end, what they said is exactly what happened.
“We were all highly disappointed with the result of today’s talks.”
The two sides, which assembled for talks at 10 a.m., are still trying to find common ground on the issue of nurse staffing levels.
“We want to get some sort of agreement about patient safety, and with their patient satisfaction scores down and nurses going home crying at night because they weren’t able to get everything done they wanted to, or take care of their patients as they wanted to, patients are beginning to feel the effects of overall cutbacks,” Brown said.
Although a strike was authorized by a vote of union members Tuesday, EMMC has not received an official strike notice.
“We came to bargain today, not to issue a strike notice,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “We came here to address our patient safety concerns. We are actively working on counter-proposals at this time.”
In November, EMMC nurses staged a one-day strike over the contract dispute. EMMC extended the work stoppage for an additional two days and brought in about 200 nurses from other areas of the country to provide patient care. The two sides have met several times since then without making significant progress. On Tuesday, nurses voted to authorize a second strike if contract talks again went nowhere.
EMMC nurses have been working without a contract since the end of September. Staffing remains the primary sticking point. Nurses say the hospital routinely understaffs, jeopardizing patient safety and eroding job satisfaction. They want staffing formulas included in their new three-year contract. The hospital argues that nurse staffing at EMMC is in keeping with national standards and that staffing decisions must remain flexible and be made at the discretion of administrators.
Hospital representatives said, “EMMC will continue to bargain in good faith with a federal mediator and union representatives on May 3.”