BANGOR, Maine — A bargaining session Wednesday morning between Eastern Maine Medical Center and the union representing the roughly 850 nurses who work there ended Wednesday without an agreement after less than two hours.
Members of the hospital’s bargaining team and negotiators for the Maine State Nurses Association, National Nurses Organizing Committee and National Nurses United were scheduled to begin contract talks at 10 a.m., union members said Tuesday during an informational picket near EMMC.
In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, EMMC administrators said that after a short session, “EMMC restated its final offer, the union did not respond, and the mediator ended the session around 11:30 am.”
The nurses union had yet to make a statement as of 5 p.m.
The union has proposed that EMMC add or maintain a resource nurse every day on eight nursing units. Resource nurses cover for nurses who are busy with a patient, call in sick, are on break or otherwise tied up.
“In addition to house-wide resource nurses and Rapid Response Teams, resource nurses are already in place on many of these units, and EMMC continues to work with unit staff to determine staffing models that are appropriate,” the hospital said Wednesday.
“EMMC maintains staffing decisions do not belong in a contract. No one can predict future staffing challenges and needs. Patient volume, technology, acuity, and other factors will affect staffing,” EMMC said in the statement. “It would be irresponsible to commit contractually to one staffing approach for the future knowing we would have to persuade the union to adjust the contract should these factors change.”
“We hope union members will be given the opportunity to vote on what EMMC views as a reasonable and fair offer,” the hospital concluded.
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 ratios, which nurses said at the time were a major sticking point.
Contract provisions remain in place, however.
As of Wednesday, no further bargaining dates had been scheduled by the federal mediator.