Nurses, hospital employees still without CNE agreement

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Rosemarie A. Desnoyers, RN, has been president of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5008 ever since 2008 when the nurses and nursing assistants organized. She has been on many picket lines on Toll Gate Road in front of the hospital, and yesterday was no exception.

Union members staged a second informational picket since contract talks with Care New England broke off on Sept. 11. At issue are the union’s efforts to gain the same benefits they have won for the nurses for the 400 newly organized technical and service employees as well as a two-year contract for all union members.

Jack Callaci, union representative, said no additional talks have been held since the last informational picket and that he expects additional pickets will be conducted in the next couple of weeks. Callaci said the union seeks “very modest changes” for its employees. Asked to define modest, Callaci said a 2 percent raise would be modest.

Callaci said the union has “got a good working relationship with the people here.” He said people on both sides of the table trust each other and believe what each other has to say.

“The problem is position,” he said.

Union members, he stressed, are looking for the security of a contract as Care New England and Partners HealthCare of Boston continue acquisition talks.

CNE spokesman Jim Beardsworth did not respond to questions yesterday about the status of talks with Partners or whether financial conditions at CNE have improved since the third quarterly report showing a loss of $6.5 million, an improvement of $19.5 million from second quarter losses.

“With regard to today’s union activity at Kent Hospital, we respect the right of the UNAP membership to hold informational picketing,” he said in a statement. “We also want to acknowledge that the entire staff of Kent Hospital does a tremendous job caring for our patients and maintaining the critical functions of the hospital around the clock, while fulfilling our mission and serving the community. It is no secret we are facing challenging economic times. However, we continue to bargain in good faith, working diligently with the union to achieve the best outcome we can in the near future.”

In a union release, Desnoyers said, “It is entirely unfair to expect all employees to do their very best each and every day and yet have one set of pay and benefits for 400 employees substantially inferior to their 800 co-workers.”

The union goes on to say, in response to the union’s request to extend contracts, several years to provide security to employees and assure pay and benefit levels during the ongoing merger/acquisition talks with Partners, Care New England has demanded sharp cuts in benefits.

“Care New England is demanding huge increases in deductibles and a $1,200 annual penalty for employees who wish to cover their spouse on the medical plan,” the union said.

Desnoyers said, “Care New England management continues to move in the wrong direction trying to make dedicated employees pay for their bad decisions and mismanagement. Demanding employees do more with less, chronic short staffing and demands for drastic benefit cuts destroy employee morale which is so important to quality care.”

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