“We are concerned about the quality of care at our hospitals,” said Beth Thomsen, a respiratory therapist serving patients at Danbury Hospital since 2001. “We want to be able to have a voice in that care. That’s why we formed a union in the first place,” said Thomsen, who is also co-president of the negotiating committee for the Danbury and New Milford Federation of Healthcare Technical Employees.
Thomsen’s comments refer to the issues that motivated her colleagues last year to unite in order to negotiate with their employer, the non-profit Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN). That led to an initial NRLB-supervised election in November, 2014 which brought the technical professionals into AFT Connecticut. The labor federation has for many years represented the registered nurses (RNs) at both acute care facilities, in addition to health professionals in 10 other hospitals across the state.
“We already knew the majority of our colleagues believed that we needed to stick together,” said Matthew Hollins, an X-Ray/CAT Scan technologist at Danbury Hospital. “In an independent phone poll 83% said that they supported our work to secure a fair contract. They understand that’s how we win the respect we deserve as medical professionals and put patients before profits at our hospitals,” said Hollins, a 10-year veteran employee who also serves on the negotiating committee.
Hollins’ comments refer to efforts by the committee of techs and therapists from a variety of departments to make improvements in both working conditions and patient care. WCHN’s managers and contracted attorneys have since March refused to address in a meaningful way critical issues such as chronic understaffing and the need to advocate for patients. A community engagement effort was launched in September to build broad public support, engage civic and elected leaders and raise greater awareness of the issues the caregivers seek to resolve.
In a message sent to their colleagues last night after the votes were tallied, the negotiating committee pledged to redouble efforts to secure a fair, first collective bargaining agreement. They said in an email, “by once again choosing UNION YES we sent a strong message to WCHN management that it’s time to work together to settle a fair contract.” The next negotiations session, which had been scheduled prior to yesterday’s recertification vote, is set to take place later today.
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 725 RNs at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. For more information, visit www.aftct.org or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
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