Nurses and technicians at New London's Lawrence and Memorial Hospital were on strike Wednesday morning, after contract talks broke down Tuesday.
The unions, representing some 800 workers, called the walk-out after five hours of talks ended in a stalemate. It's the first major strike at a hospital in the state in almost 30 years. The unions said the biggest issues are job security and patient care.
"The hospital has been moving services away from the hospital and shifting them to an outpatient setting," said Lisa D'Abrosca, president of the nurses' union at L&M. "And what they've been doing is laying off our workers, and bringing in replacement workers who are non-union and less skilled. We have concerns: we want to be able to follow the work, and follow the patient; follow the services. If a service is moved away from L&M, we want to be able to go along with our patients, and take care of them."
The hospital said it will postpone elective procedures, and divert some emergency cases to other hospitals, but it has hired temporary workers to fill in behind some of the strikers. The walk-out is due to last until Saturday evening, but Greg Kotecki, chief negotiator for both unions, said there may be trouble when they attempt to return. "They're going to illegally lock us out, beginning at 11:01 on Saturday evening," he said. "We will be seeking injunctive relief with the National Labor Relations Board. We're going to seek an injunction to stop this illegal lockout so that we can continue to provide the excellent care to our patients."
The hospital's CEO, Bruce Cummings, issued a statement saying the unions were not prepared to negotiate in good faith. L&M said it has guaranteed job security to the majority of registered nurses and technicians over the life of the three-year contract, but its offers were not put before union membership.
Governor Dannel Malloy expressed his disappointment with management at the hospital, accusing them of showing a blatant disregard for their employees and patients.