University of Vermont Medical Center nurses have ratified a three-year contract that ends a testy labor dispute, their union and the hospital announced Friday morning.
"This has been a long and difficult road for all of us, and we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished," said Molly Wallner, lead negotiator for the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "We have shown the hospital, our community, and ourselves what we are capable of. "
The agreement gives nurses a 16 percent salary increase over the next three years. Some nurses will get raises of up to 30 percent.
Roughly 1,100 of the 1,800 nurses in the union cast votes, Wallner said, and 70 percent of them favored ratification. Negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on September 19.
"We are happy to share this long-awaited and positive news, and look forward to implementing the many changes that will result from this new contract — which will enhance patient care, provide additional support for nurses and allow for new opportunities to advance the nursing profession," UVM Medical Center spokeswoman Annie Mackin said.
The union went on strike on July 12 after rejecting a 14 percent pay hike. After 48 hours, the nurses returned to work.
But the contract may not ease tensions between the hospital and nurses for long. Wallner said that the union would continue to push the hospital on several fronts. The union wants the hospital to hire more outpatient nurses to create a pool to backfill temporary vacancies, and to have all hospital support staff make at least $15 an hour.
The union also plans to lobby the legislature for "pro-patient and pro-nurse" legislation for safer hospitals and lower staff-patient ratios, Wallner said.