EMMC nurses gearing up for informational picket

Posted May 14, 2012, at 7:27 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Union nurses and their supporters will conduct an informational picket Tuesday at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

The event is set for 4-8 p.m. and will include a news conference, the nurses said in an announcement issued on Friday.

EMMC administrators and members of the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which represents roughly 850 nurses who work for the hospital, have been unable to reach agreement on a contract after more than two months of negotiating.

Although participants hold signs and banners and the like, an informational picket is not a strike. Rather, it is meant to allow unions in negotiation to provide information to the public.

Members of the two bargaining teams are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator again on Wednesday.

The one-year contract that expired earlier this month was ratified last May after eight months of often contentious negotiations. In addition to marathon contract talks, there was picketing, a strike, a lockout and threats of a second strike and lockout.

Among the issues resolved in that agreement were the transfers of nurses among departments, the workload for charge nurses and health benefits. Not addressed were staffing levels, which nurses said at the time was a major sticking point.

Contract provisions remain in place, however.

Sticking points in this round of talks include staffing levels, security in the emergency department and pay.

The nurses, who did not receive a cost of living increase in the contract that expired at midnight last Thursday, are seeking 3 percent increases for each of the three years of their next contract — or a 5 percent increase if only a one-year agreement is reached.

The union also is seeking benefit improvements, including an additional pay step and more pay for nurses who are called in to work outside of their regular hours.

EMMC said its “last, best, final offer” called for 3 percent the first year and 2 percent for each of the subsequent two years and a 3 percent increase in the event that only a one-year pact is achieved.

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