The 1,200 registered nurses at Tufts Medical Center represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association walked out Wednesday morning, beginning a 24-hour strike after the latest round of negotiations Tuesday failed to yield an agreement.
The MNA called the strike historic, saying it is the first strike by nurses in Boston in over 30 years and the largest nurses' strike in Massachusetts history.
"We came to the table today hoping to reach an agreement, but Tufts management is determined to force a strike and a subsequent lockout of our nurses," said Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, an OR nurse and bargaining unit co-chair. "This decision really shows administration's lack of respect for its nurses and for the safety our patients."
The MNA said nurses want improvements in staffing levels, salary increases, and an enhanced pension benefit. The MNA said Tufts nurses are the lowest paid nurses in Boston and called their pension benefits "the worst in the city."
"Too many RNs are regularly carrying patient assignments that are too large and unsafe. Every day, the hospital sends RNs blast text messages asking them to pick up shifts that are open due to the bare-bones approach management uses to staff the hospital," the MNA said on their website.
The MNA also said Tufts management proposed freezing the benefit pension plan for approximately 350 RNs and implementing what they call a complex catch up mechanism as part of a proposed higher-risk 403(b) matching program. They said the plan would mean big losses in retirement funding.
Tufts management claimed they came to the table with a $30 million viable plan that included substantial pay raises, more patient care resources and a "solid retirement plan for all nurses." They also said that their revenue in well below other hospitals in the city and it is not feasible to pay their nurses the same wages as other facilities. The wage increase included in the final plan was 10.5 percent or nearly $17,000 per year over the first 40 months of the contract. All other nurses, who in FY16 earned an average of $100,000, would have received a 5.5 percent raise plus their annual 5 percent step increases.
"The MNA had a choice to support patient safety - they instead chose to call on our nurses to walk out on patients. We went to the table with open minds, ready to once again be creative and resourceful in reaching an agreement that best meets the needs of our nurses, but the union recycled the same retirement proposal that is risky for our nurses and expensive for the hospital. Tomorrow morning, we will deliver care the same exceptional care we always have at Tufts Medical Center. We have more than 320 experienced nurses here to care for patients," said Tufts Spokesperson Rhonda Mann.