Nurses union votes ‘no confidence’ in Lifespan leadership, approves new strike notice


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Less than a week after unionized nurses at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital went back to work following a strike, the union’s members voted “no confidence” in Lifespan CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau and Rhode Island Hospital President Dr. Margaret Van Bree.

The members also voted to authorize the union’s executive board to issue another 10-day strike notice to the hospital, though a spokesperson said the board has no immediate plans to formally issue the notice unless negotiations break down.

The hospital group’s board chairman immediately responded in defense of Babineau and Van Bree, calling the hospital’s leadership “among the finest in the country.” 

The UNAP Local 5098 union went on strike last Monday over a contract stalemate with the hospital. The strike officially ended Thursday, though nurses weren’t able to return to work until Friday because of the hospital’s contract with the replacement staffers. Even then, some nurses had shifts canceled because of a low patient count at the hospital after the strike.

In the resolution declaring “no confidence” in Babineau and Van Bree, the union blamed the two for “failing to adequately staff all areas of the hospital,” “gross negligence in providing critical resources,” “creating a hostile work environment” and “leading through fear and intimidation.”

The resolution asks the Lifespan board of directors to “take immediate, corrective action to restore the public’s trust in Rhode Island’s only Level One trauma hospital.”

The chairman of that board, Lawrence Aubin Sr., said in a statement the executives have the “full faith and support of the Lifespan Board of Directors.”

“Through their leadership, Lifespan and Rhode Island Hospital are among the major employers in the state, something only possible through their continued focus on the financial health of the hospitals and employee well-being,” Aubin said. 

He also cited several statistics and recognitions the hospital has received, including an “A” grade for hospital safety from The Leapfrog Group. 

Lifespan leaders have repeatedly said the union did not bring up issues of patient safety, staffing levels and resources in the negotiations for the contract that led to the strike.

The two sides are scheduled to return to the negotiating table on August 8. They have not met since the morning of July 23, hours before the strike began.

Even if the new 10-day strike notice is issued, the union members would need to vote again to authorize a second strike. Members plan on conducting “informational pickets” outside the hospital on Aug. 6 and 7.

“Rhode Island Hospital will not be swayed by the threat of another strike,” hospital spokesperson David Levesque said in a statement. “The hospital is committed to negotiating in good faith toward a contract that reflects the value of our nurses and technical staff by offering wages and benefit commensurate with the market.”

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