PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s off the picket line and back on the job for most union nurses and technologists at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals, though some had their shifts canceled Friday due to a low patient count at the hospital.
The dispute between the union and the hospital is far from over, as the nurses are working without a contract and negotiations are not scheduled to resume until August 8.
About 2,400 nurses and other health care workers represented by Local 5098 of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals went on strike Monday after union members voted down a contract offer earlier this month.
The union wanted the strike to last just three days, but the hospital “locked out” the employees an extra day because of a four-day contract with the replacement workers who cared for patients during the strike. The hospital contends–and the union has acknowledged– that they notified the union of the four-day requirement ten days before the strike began.
Even when the replacement nurses went home at 3 p.m. Friday, some nurses were told that their shifts would be canceled because there weren’t enough patients. David Levesque, a spokesperson for the hospital, said there were 388 patients at both Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro as of Friday afternoon. There would typically be more than 600.
“We expect it may take several days for patient volume…to return to normal,” Levesque said. “This is typical after a strike.”
Levesque said 20 employees for the 7 p.m. shift Friday were still on “delay of return.” It was not immediately known how many nurses on the earlier shifts were unable to return to work.
Before returning to the job, union members held a rally on the hospital campus, which featured several speeches and a rendition of the song, “We’re not gonna take it,” which had blared all week long from the Eddy Street picket line.
I just spoke to a nurse who said she was notified via text message that she should not come in for the remainder of her shift in the diagnostic imaging center for both hospitals. She said other shifts did still go in. She was supposed to end at 4:30PM. @wpri12— Kait Walsh (@KaitLouiseWalsh) July 27, 2018
The union said it would file grievances over the call-outs.
“We have a provision in our contract that states we cannot be mandatorily called off,” said Nancy Materne, Local UNAP executive board member.
A hospital spokesperson said they were not in violation of the union contract.