April 22, 2019
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Contract talks between EMMC, nurses union continue

BANGOR, Maine — Bargaining teams representing Eastern Maine Medical Center and its unionized nurses met again on Wednesday, and while the parties were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract, the current contract was extended through July 2.

The contract extension was the second since the nurses’ original contract expired May 30.

Several proposals that EMMC and the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United have been discussing for weeks were resolved, hospital officials said Wednesday evening in a news release.

However, there was little movement on staffing ratios and compensation, which remain the most significant issues on the table, hospital officials noted.

The union represents about 850 nurses at EMMC.

Earlier this month, unionized nurses voted to authorize a strike.

The nurses said earlier that the new contract must address “critical issues impacting patient safety,” to reduce injuries, infections and bedsores among patients treated at the hospital.

EMMC officials said, however, that the union’s vote does not mean a strike is imminent. A strike could occur only if their contract expires and the union gives the hospital 10 days’ notice.

EMMC nurses have walked the picket line before. Union members ratified a one-year contract in May 2011 after eight months of often contentious negotiations that included a strike, work stoppage and lockout, with threats of a second strike and lockout. Even after ratifying the last contract, nurses said staffing remained a problem.

That three-year contract granted the nurses raises of at least 7 percent and beefed up security at the hospital.

EMMC employs about 1,100 registered nurses, including 315 managers pool nurses who aren’t represented by the union.

Hospital officials said patient care will continue uninterrupted if the union decides to strike.

The parties are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on June 24.

Bangor Daily News Health Editor Jackie Farwell contributed to this report.

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