More than 50 people from area labor unions showed their solidarity Monday afternoon in support of the nurses at UVM Medical Center.
The Teamsters, the Green Mountain Labor Council and faculty unions at UVM and Champlain College were just some of those groups.
The lead negotiator for the nurses’ union says the 24% wage increase they’re asking for will make it easier for the hospital to fill nursing vacancies.
“We have 170 open positions, and we also need the people who are the experienced nurses to teach the younger generation,” Julie MacMillan said. “We are advocating for 1,800 people over a three-year contract, and so we recognize that it has a big price tag.”
The nurses say they’re seeking wage parity with the nurses at CVPH in Plattsburgh.
“The hospital makes $1.2 billion a year for the network,” MacMillan said. “They have never said they can’t afford our wage proposal. They have inferred that we are not worthy, and so we are saying we are worthy of what our counterparts in Plattsburgh make.”
UVM Medical Center president Eileen Whalen says if the hospital paid nurses the same way CVPH does, more than a third of the nurses would swallow a pay cut.
“We’ve spent quite a bit of time analyzing CVPH’s wage and salary steps, and we believe that it would really disadvantage a significant number of our nurses if we were to adopt that scale,” Whalen said.
The medical center needs to present a budget every year to the Green Mountain Care Board…and then hold itself to it.
“Our budget is already complete for fiscal year (2019),” Whalen said. “We will be in front of the Green Mountain Care Board in August, and what the union is asking for is considerably higher than what we’ve budgeted over the next couple of years.”
Tomorrow should be a big day at the hospital. Not only will there be another round of contract talks at 4:00 p.m., there’s also going to be a community picket taking place right outside the main entrance at 6:00. The nurses’ union has not organized that gathering.