By JoAnne Powers
While twelve hundred nurses at Tufts Medical Center in Boston are back at the bargaining table this week after voting overwhelmingly to reject the hospital’s “last, best and final offer” on Thursday, the Massachusetts Nurses Association are continuing to mobilize and prepare for a possible strike.
The nurses voted to authorize a one-day strike back in March, and Barbara Tiller, co-chair of the nurses’ bargaining committee, says the option is still on the table:
[Barbara Tiller]: “We have actually been at the table for well over a year. We’re sort of at a breaking point. Our primary goal is to settle a positive contract that is good for the hospital and good for the nurses that work here. We don’t feel the offer that’s on the table right now is enough to help us build a strong, clinically sound nursing staff. It was an overwhelming no vote. So we feel very confident that we could easily pull the strike notice and go out if that’s what we need to do.”
Negotiations have stalled over three main issues: understaffing, wages and benefits:
[Barbara Tiller]: “Being a teaching hospital in the city we are in competition with many as far as trying to hire and retain nurses. So, over the years our salaries have started to decrease, and we’re finding ourselves in a much lower place for salaries…about seven dollars behind all the other hospitals. We also carry heavier patient assignments than other hospitals. Tufts Medical Center, a teaching hospital associated with Tuft’s University. Our nurses can actually go anywhere and have better staffing, better resources and better wages. So it’s hard to hold onto them with that kind of a climate.”