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St. Vincent Hospital nurses in Worcester ratify contract, end 301-day strike

St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Jesse Costa
St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.

A 487-9 contract ratification vote on Monday officially ended the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history, paving the way for St. Vincent Hospital to begin recalling nurses after 301 days.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association announced the vote Monday night, saying the agreement with Tenet Healthcare came after two weeks of discussions with federal mediators and was settled at an in-person session mediated by U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

According to the MNA, the deal contains a "back to work" provision guaranteeing that all nurses who participated in the strike — which the union called the longest nurses strike nationally in over 15 years — will have the right to return to the same position, hours and shift. The hospital will have 30 days after ratification to recall all nurses, the MNA said.

The striking nurses had sought staffing level changes, and the MNA said the deal includes a limit of four-patient assignments on the hospital's cardiac post-surgical unit, a mix of four- and five-patient assignments on other medical-surgical and telemetry flours, and a maximum of five patients assigned to each nurse on the behavioral health unit.

The contract provides 2% across-the-board wage increases each year, starting Jan. 1, 2021 with the last increase on June 30, 2025, and the MNA said it also features "a significantly enhanced health insurance benefit for part-time nurses with all nurses who work 24-hours or more receiving a premium with Tenet paying 80% of the cost, up from 65% for 24-hour nurses previously, which keeps pace with the benefit for nurses working at UMass Memorial Medical Center."

In a statement, Congresswoman Lori Trahan called the vote "an historic victory for the heroic nurses at St. Vincent who refused to budge until they secured the protections and staffing conditions their patients deserve."

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