As lockout looms, EMMC, nurses seek common ground

Posted April 28, 2011, at 4:04 p.m.
Last modified April 28, 2011, at 5:24 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Negotiators for Eastern Maine Medical Center and the unionized registered nurses who work there resumed negotiations Thursday morning, despite the hospital’s announcement shortly after midnight that the deadline had passed and it was too late to avert a threatened five-day work stoppage.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the two sides were still at the table, a sign Vanessa Sylvester of the Maine State Nurses Association and National Nurses United said was encouraging.

“That’s not our deadline; that was the hospital’s deadline,” Sylvester said. “The nurses association is always hopeful that an agreement can be reached.”

Jill McDonald, vice president for communications and marketing at the hospital, was less optimistic.

“They missed the deadline and we are planning for a five-day work stoppage,” she said. “We are obligated under the law to keep negotiating whether there is a strike planned or not.”

On Easter Sunday, nurse negotiators delivered a 10-day strike notice, citing the hospital’s failure to meet demands for better staffing, health insurance and job protections for a new three-year contract. In turn, EMMC on Tuesday notified the nurses that if the two sides had not signed an agreement by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, it would formalize a five-day commitment to bringing  replacement RNs to Bangor to cover the nurses’ threatened one-day strike and an additional four-day lockout.

The five-day work stoppage would run from Thursday, May 5, through Monday, May 9.

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