PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI)— The union that represents 2,400 nurses, techs and therapists at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals is encouraging them to apply for unemployment assistance for their 4th day out of work, due to what the union calls a “lockout.”
The union members were willing to go back to work on Thursday at 3 p.m., but Rhode Island Hospital said its contract with Huffmaster, the company that brought in the replacement nurses, guaranteed four days of work for the staff that came in to cover for the union members during the strike.
Spokesperson Christina O’Reilly said the hospital notified the union about the four-day requirement on July 13, ten days before the union went on strike and the same day the union issued a 10-day strike notice.
The union voted again on July 19 to go ahead with the strike.
“We wanted a three-day strike, we wanted to send a message to the hospital,” said Norman Farias, a nurse who is also the Executive Vice President of the UNAP Local 5098 union. “Obviously anything more than that is going to be very disruptive for the hospital…and then they on their own decided that they would extend the circumstances by one day. We really don’t understand what they were trying to prove by doing that.”
Farias said the union is encouraging members to apply for unemployment for that 4th day, which starts at 3 p.m. Thursday and ends at 3 p.m. Friday.
“Because this is a day they would be working and the hospital’s telling them they can’t,” Farias said. “So they would apply for unemployment for sure.”
Nora Crowley, a spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Training (DLT), said it’s impossible to say at this point if those unemployment claims will be approved.
“When an individual submits a new claim and indicates that their separation from work is the result of a labor dispute, staff in our unemployment insurance unit will request information directly from the claimant, the union and the employer,” Crowley said. “Only after that fact-finding process would we be able to determine eligibility.”
It’s unclear whether all nurses will be able to go back to work right away, since the hospital has intentionally lowered its patient count due to the strike.
“Staffing decisions will be made, as always, according to census numbers,” O’Reilly said.
“We don’t have any say in that,” Farias said. “But we’re willing to go back to work tomorrow.”