UVM Medical Center and nurses union still looking for elusive agreement

Local News

Administrators at UVM Medical Center sweetened their offer to union nurses Wednesday in a new round of negotiations, but the two sides again failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Hospital management offered 600 nurses at the top of their wage range an additional 1 percent bonus. UVM President Eileen Whalen says the hospital has also promised “enhanced benefits to “ensure the University of Vermont Medical Center remains a great place to work.”

Nurses went on a two-day strike last month, forcing the hospital to bring in an estimated 600 replacement nurses from July 12 to 14. On Wednesday, the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, which represents about 1,800 nurses at UVM, said that it has not taken the possibility of another strike off the table.

Julie MacMillan, the union’s lead negotiator, said the nurses are “are considering all options.”

“We are continuing to talk to our members and plan accordingly,” she said.

The hospital, meanwhile, remains convinced that the negotiations will eventually lead to a compromise.

“We really feel like if we can stay at the bargaining table, continue to have discussion and use the mediators in an effective way, we’re going to resolve this,” said Laurie Gunn, VP of Employee, Patient and Family Experience. “We are very committed to providing a fair and competitive contract for our nurses while also continuing to provide affordable, high quality care for our patients.”

More talks are scheduled for August 13-14. UVM Medical Center said an additional federal mediator will be at the meeting along with the mediator who was present for previous negotiations.

MacMillan said there was still a large disconnect between the two parties.

“Unfortunately, it was more of the same,” she said. “We pushed them on identifying obstacles, to finding our common ground and they continue to delay our information requests, deny that there’s a problem. I mean, today was the first time our Chief Nursing Officer acknowledged there’s a staffing crisis in this hospital.”

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