UVM Medical Center Nurses Set Date for Strike | Health Care | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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UVM Medical Center Nurses Set Date for Strike


Published July 2, 2024 at 10:34 a.m.

Deb Snell speaking at a press conference last month - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Deb Snell speaking at a press conference last month
Updated at 3:35 p.m.

Nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center say they will strike for five days starting July 12 if they can’t reach a new contract with the hospital.

The announcement does not necessarily mean a strike will happen. Unions are legally required to file 10-day notices ahead of work stoppages, and the two sides say they will continue negotiating this week in hopes of closing a sizable gap between their proposed wage increases. But the latest posturing brings Vermont's largest hospital one step closer to what would be its second strike in six years.

“We're not giving up [on a deal],” Deb Snell, president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But the hospital needed to be put on notice that we're just about done with the nonsense.”

The union says its negotiators have significantly reduced its proposal since last week, from 46 percent raises to 31 percent, which upset some of its members. The hospital’s proposal, on the other hand, has risen from 17 to 20 percent. But an 11 percent gap remains, representing more than $30 million, and it is unclear whether either side is willing to budge any further.

“We're confident that the offer we have on the table now is the offer that makes sense, with everything else that we're trying to do right now,” UVM Medical Center president Stephen Leffler said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The nurses aren’t convinced. They say the hospital must go higher if it hopes to recruit or retain nurses in expensive Chittenden County.

“It's heartbreaking — the stories that we're hearing about moms having to work two jobs and can't afford to pay rent,” Snell said.

The union and the hospital were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and union leaders say they’re willing to meet again on Monday, July 8, if they feel progress is being made. The current contract expires on July 9.

While expressing hope for a compromise, UVM Medical Center officials say they are preparing as if a strike is imminent. They have already made a $750,000 deposit to a nursing staffing agency and are now in the process of booking hotels for the hundreds of temp workers who would be needed to fill in for nurses on the picket lines, according to Leffler.

He estimated that the hospital will have spent close to $2 million by July 8, the last day of scheduled negotiations, and said it could spend anywhere from $10 to $15 million over the duration of the strike. He also warned that elective procedures may be canceled during those five days.

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