UVM Medical Center nurse strike possible

PLATTSBURGH — The possibility of a nurses strike at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington looms closer after Tuesday’s negotiating session did not produce results.

In a statement released Tuesday night, UVM Medical Center President Eileen Whalen noted that the continuing talks with the nurses union did not produce an agreement.

“Our nurses union has informed us they intend to go out on strike in less than 36 hours,” she said.

“Should that occur, we are prepared to continue providing high-quality care for our patients and their families.”

Whalen said talks with the union would resume at 4 p.m. today.

“We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement,” she said.

Focus on pay

Unionized nurses at the Burlington hospital have scheduled a two-day strike to start at 7 a.m. Thursday if they don’t see more progress on their requests, which include better staffing and more pay.

Their most recent contract expired Monday.

The union has asked for a 24 percent increase in salaries over three years.

But union President Laurie Aunchman told the Burlington Free Press that they have put forth alternative proposals that ask for less than 24 percent.

As part of their argument, they have cited the higher pay received by nurses at University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.

Replacements

For its part, the Burlington hospital is offering a 13 percent increase over three years, “with significant increases beyond that for nurses in certain roles,” according to a statement.

UVM Medical Center’s proposal would bring the average annual salary for a registered nurse to $84,000.

Whalen told the Free Press that the Burlington hospital has spent money to train 600 replacement nurses who will work during the planned strike, not revealing the expected expense for two days of strike but describing it as very costly.

Although a strike would not involve CVPH nurses, area patients will still be affected because the Plattsburgh, Malone and Elizabethtown hospitals are part of the UVM Health Network and many local people are sent across the lake for assessment and treatment.

Some surgeries and procedures at the Burlington hospital have been postponed because of the possible strikes.

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