Union Nurses Brace For Work Stoppage At EMMC 

Negotiations between union nurses and administration at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor have broken down. It now looks like a work stoppage may be unavoidable.The two sides met again Monday morning, but talks between unionized nurses and hospital administration quickly broke down. A little before noon, a federal mediator told the two sides no progress could be made. Judy Brown, President of the Nurses Union at EMMC says nurses say they did make one concession. “We have offered to officially take wages off the table so that there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that this is about safe patient staffing,” says Brown. “The medical center is still holding firm so it’s on them at this point.” Greg Howat, the V.P. of Human Resources EMMC, says the two sides have had plenty of time to iron out their differences. The federal mediator has asked the two sides not to contact each other directly until the next bargaining session. “It’s really not a matter of not having enough time to reach an agreement, we’ve had plenty of time,” he says. “It’s a matter of the inclination of the parties and there’s no lack of communication. We’re very clear on our positions but we’re far apart.”Negotiations scheduled for later this week have been cancelled. The nurses announced last week a one-day strike scheduled for Monday November 22nd. An ad that appeared on the website Craig’s List over the weekend, offering up to $49 per hour for replacement nurses. Hospital officials say once they were made aware of the ad, placed there by an employee at a recruiting agency, it was removed. They confirm it will be expensive to staff the hospital during the work stoppage. “It’s going to be a lot of money but we obviously have no option but to make sure that we have sufficient nurses and other staff who are here,” says Howat.Union nurses say it will cost more than $1 million and there is a better way the hospital can spend that money. “What they could do is actually hire 20 new grads full time for a year,” says Brown. “That would go a long way to help solve some of the issues”Howatt says there are other nurses strikes over similar issues going on around the country in Michigan and Washington D.C. He says the situation going on here in Bangor is going to be difficult to resolve. “I think that the experience that we’re both going to go through, this is a painful process for both sides. I think we’re going to find out what it’s going to take and frankly there may be more than one strike.”The two sides are not scheduled to head back to the negotiating table until after Thanksgiving.