Nurses working without contract as negotiations continue
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Nurses at Vermont’s largest medical center worked without a contract Monday while their union continues to negotiate for a pay raise with hospital administrators.
Both sides said they hope to reach a deal and avert a threatened nursing strike scheduled for July 12 and 13.
The three-year contract for 1,800 unionized nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center expired first thing Monday morning. The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals is asking for a 24 percent wage increase. Union leaders said the increase would make their wages equal to those at Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York, which is part of the same health network.
Union leaders held a rally in Burlington before negotiations began again Monday afternoon. The union received the support of nearly 20 civic groups and unions, including local chapters of the AFL-CIO and Teamsters as well as the New York State Nurses’ Association.
“I knew in the back of my mind that the unions of Vermont were behind us, but for them to stand up and tell us they’ll be at the picket line, that they have our backs and believe in what we’re doing was incredible,” said Deb Snell, an intensive care unit nurse and union vice president.
The nurses’ union has already received support from liberal politicians, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.
The union leaders and representatives for the hospital have negotiations with a federal mediator scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Hospital administrators have remained optimistic that they would be able to avoid a strike, but have said if a strike does occur there will be no interruption to patient care. The hospital has contracted with a Colorado firm that specializes in nursing strikes and will bring in nurses from outside the Burlington area.