Hospital nurses reject contract concessions
Updated 8:59 pm, Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Registered nurses at New Milford Hospital overwhelmingly rejected a package of concessions that hospital officials said would have saved four nursing jobs.
In doing so, they join their colleagues at Danbury Hospital who had turned down the plan.
The vote means four nurses will lose their jobs and two others will have their hours cut, on top of the 21 positions that will be eliminated at Danbury Hospital.
Nurses cast their ballots throughout the day Aug. 8 at New Milford Hospital, beginning at about 9 a.m. and concluding at 7 p.m., said Matt O'Connor, spokesman for AFT Connecticut, which represents about 125 nurses in New Milford and about 600 in Danbury.
Union officials said the vote in New Milford was virtually unanimous.
In Danbury, 96 percent of the members had rejected the plan.
"The No. 1 concern for our nurses is quality patient care, and our vote reflects that," said Joanne Chapin, a registered nurse in the one-day surgery unit at New Milford Hospital and president of AFT Local 5101.
"Cutting direct acute caregivers now or in the future is the wrong prescription for our community hospital," she said.
Western Connecticut Health Network operates New Milford and Danbury hospitals.
WCHN pokesperson Andrea Rynn said Monday "our bargaining units were invited to participate in both the fight and solution" to address the $30 million in state cuts to hospitals.
"In an effort to save 25 nursing jobs, we proposed a reasonable alternative to the nurses through pay practice changes that are equal to our staff at WCHN, and comparable to other hospitals in our region," Rynn said.
"(The nurses) declined to adopt these pay practices so sadly, the reduction of 25 nurses will go forward," she said.
Officials for WCHN previously said the staff cuts, part of an overall reduction of more than 116 positions, were necessary because of the loss of $30 million in state budget assistance.
In lieu of the nursing layoffs, WCHN proposed the elimination of evening and weekend shift differentials and adjusted overtime payments.
The proposal did not include protections from future layoffs, according to the union. Rynn did not respond to this claim.
"From the moment they announced the first round of cuts, the network refused to consider more responsible choices," said Chapin. "The reality is that we want to be part of the solution, but not at the expense of quality patient care."
Even if the nurses had accepted the concessions, two nursing positions would have been lost, that of diabetic care coordinator and patient referral case manager, Chapin said.
Aug. 12 was the last day of work for all the nurses who lost their jobs, she said.
email@example.com; 203-731-3342. Staff writer Susan Tuz contributed to this story.