PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Unionized nurses at Rhode Island Hospital have approved a new five-year contract with the hospital, averting a possible second strike and ending a contentious dispute that has pitted the health care workers against their employer.
The Local 5098 union, which represents nurses, therapists and technologists at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals announced the vote late Wednesday. The union went on strike for three days in July, and was considering issuing a notice of a second strike.
The deal was struck on Friday during negotiations between the two sides with the help of a federal mediator, but the tentative agreement still needed the approval of the union members.
Union spokesman Ray Sullivan said the contract includes a new “staffing, equipment and supplies committee” to meet regularly to address concerns in those areas, which were strongly voiced on the picket line during the strike.
Sullivan said the contract also includes a “competitive wage plan,” pay increases across the board, and one week of pay for humanitarian missions. The contract also allows members to keep their pension plan, and allows them to opt-in to the 6% 401K match plan offered to the rest of Lifespan’s employees.
Sullivan declined to say what the salary increases will be under the contract. The union members previously rejected a contract that gave different percent increases to nurses with varying levels of experience.
“I’m proud of all UNAP members who stood up and raised their voice to win a fair and competitive contract at Rhode Island Hospital,” said Frank Sims, Local 5098 president. “This has been a long, and at times, difficult process, but I believe we made significant gains for front line caregivers and our patients by remaining committed to the common principles and commitment to care that bind us.”
Sullivan also said both sides agreed to drop dueling unfair labor practice claims that were filed after the strike.
A spokesperson for Rhode Island Hospital said the contract “paves the way for a productive working relationship moving forward,” also highlighting the new labor management committee.
“The hospital greatly values and respects its UNAP represented employees and all Rhode Island Hospital employees and looks forward to continuing our work of providing the highest quality care for our patients, Elena Falcone-Relvas said. “Much appreciation and recognition was expressed for the efforts of our staff to ensure continuity of high quality care throughout this process and the extraordinary work of both negotiation teams for working tirelessly to reach this agreement.”