Photo by Sasint on Pixabay.
“They’ve been calling us heroes,” said Pat Raes, a nurse at Meriter Hospital who serves as the bargaining co-chair for the Meriter Hospital nurse’s union. “We feel like martyrs sometimes.”
She says nurses have been negotiating with hospital management to change the workers’ contract.
Raes said that the desire for changes to the contract stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, and are intended to protect nurses’ mental and physical health in the case of a second pandemic. She says that negotiations are ongoing and they have worked out an agreement with management on some details, but not all of them.
“Well, we’ve been at the table with management for thirteen days, eleven days, for anywhere from eight to fifteen hours a day,” said Raes. “We have made some strides forward, we have some areas that are sticking points. The work-life balance is a sticking point, we want a bigger voice at the table. When nurses are being impacted, we’re asking for sick time. When other staff in other hospitals developed COVID, the hospitals asked what could they do to help, our hospital asked ‘where did you get it.’ And we’d have to use our own vacation unless we could prove that we got it at the hospital.”
The sticking points are why the union is considering providing a notice of strike to hospital management, though it has not been filed yet. Under federal law, a union must provide a ten-day advance notice to their employer in the event of a strike.
The SEIU, or the Service Employees International Union, held a press conference shortly before broadcast today, where representatives of Meriter Hospital, including Raes herself, spoke about their efforts.
Joe, an E.R. nurse and elected member of the bargaining team, said that hospital workers fight the pandemic at work, and then go home and have to continue facing it there. He says that nurses need to consider their own well-being too.
“Nurses, by definition, we help other people,” said Joe. “That’s our main job: We advocate for patients. That’s what we long to do, and that’s what we’re great at. Unfortunately, sometimes we do that at the expense of ourselves. We’re not used to asking for the things that we need to take care of ourselves.”
Raes said that they will continue talking with hospital management until a deal is reached.