“The corporation’s latest ‘offer’ is little more than an attempted bribe of our nurses and techs,” said Kim Brault, a nuclear medicine technologist in L&M Hospital’s nuclear medicine department, PET/CT center. “Instead of sitting down and talking to us so we can come up with a mutual agreement to end their lockout, they’re trying to buy us out. It’s an insult to us as healthcare professionals. What’s worse, it’s an insult to our community, because our patients and their families are standing with us,” said Brault, a member of AFT Local 5051, the union representing the hospital’s approximately 250 licensed practical nurses (LPNs), healthcare technologists and technicians.
Brault’s comments refer to an “offer” posted yesterday on a public website maintained by the hospital that included “ratification bonuses” if approved by next Monday. Language pertaining to patient care delivery concerns was unchanged from a proposal rejected by the combined negotiating committee for the two local unions whose members are now locked out. Additional proposals were also included that referred to wages, benefits, work rules and other issues not yet addressed in previous negotiating sessions with representatives of Lawrence & Memorial Corporation (LMC).
“This was never about money. This has always been about patient care,” said Dale Cunningham, a registered nurse (RN) in L&M Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. “Our patients need us. A hospital that’s relying on ‘rent-a-nurses’ can’t pretend it’s operating a high quality facility,” said Cunningham, a member of AFT Local 5049, which represents approximately 540 RNs at the hospital.
Cunnigham’s comments refer to the caregivers’ concerns over limited access and restrictions on delivery of care for the patients served by L&M and its affected subsidiaries during the lockout. Operating room (OR) procedures remain curtailed as of today, and medical doctors have canceled numerous scheduled surgeries since Monday. The facility’s oncology (6.2) and overflow/training (3.6) units have remained closed since the lockout was imposed on November 30.
“We have a lot of questions for L&M’s leadership about who’s really paying to maintain their lockout,” said New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. “As a non-profit institution, L&M greatly benefits from New London by not being on our city’s tax rolls. So the question is whether city taxpayers are subsidizing this lockout. That’s no way to spend patient care dollars that we as New Londoners help make available for our community hospital,” said Mayor Finizio.
The mayor’s comments refer to the economic price tag for the corporation’s lockout, which sources estimate at $2.5 million in the first week alone and expect will quickly rise. Unemployment insurance claims for the nearly 800 workers who have been without pay since November 30 are expected to be approved next week and will greatly inflate the corporation’s costs. Union leaders also plan to seek backpay as restitution for the illegal lockout of its members, further adding to the tab for LMC’s actions.
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AFT Connecticut represents over 10,000 health professionals in the state, including 1,600 nurses, technicians, and healthcare workers in three local unions at L&M Hospital in New London. Follow the labor federation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.