Hospital strike starts, contract talks break down

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Nurses and other caregivers went on strike Wednesday against Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and set up a picket line after the company and union representing 800 workers failed to agree on a new contract.

Picket lines formed as the union, AFT Connecticut, said hospital negotiators refused to continue talks on Tuesday. The union accuses the hospital of transferring work to affiliates that are non-union.

The hospital says the disagreement is due to what it calls the union’s “unyielding demand” for 100 percent job security. The hospital says that’s unrealistic because of changes in the health care industry.

“As negotiations continued in recent days, it became increasingly apparent that union representatives were not prepared to negotiate in good faith,” Bruce Cummings, president and chief executive officer of L+M, said in a statement.

The Day of New London reported that Cummings said none of the hospital’s proposals was ever put before the union membership.

Hospital spokesman Michael O’Farrell said replacement workers have been hired but in far fewer numbers than the employees on strike, many of whom are part-time.

The hospital also is curtailing some services, rescheduling elective surgeries that were to take place between Wednesday and Friday, and closing two patient units and consolidating two others, O’Farrell said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has sided with the union. Malloy, a Democrat, said Tuesday that while it takes two to negotiate, L+M has shown no desire to reach consensus.

The union said members will strike for four days, until 11 p.m. Saturday when workers return to their jobs under the terms of the contract that expired Nov. 16.

But the hospital promised a “lockout” of striking workers starting at 11 p.m. Saturday until a new contract is signed. The hospital says an on-again, off-again strike would be too disruptive.

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