Union meeting spawned Malloy letter to L+M

New London - Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's top executive issued a sharp response Thursday to a letter from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who expressed "deep concerns" about the hospital's "current healthcare, employment and community service practices."

Malloy, in his letter to Bruce Cummings, L+M's president and chief executive officer, wrote, "After hearing from your healthcare workers and service employees, and in light of the decision by the National Labor Relations Board to file a formal complaint against you, I believe there are several serious areas of concern that deserve a response."

The letter was released late in the afternoon.

"It is ironic that Gov. Malloy is now expressing 'deep concerns about the current healthcare, employment and community service practices' at L+M after his budget cut funding to this institution by more than $18 million over two years and resulted in elimination of valuable programs, services and employees," Cummings said in a statement emailed to The Day.

"Statewide, Gov. Malloy cut funding to Connecticut hospitals by $550 million, which has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of job losses at a time when the state's lagging economy cannot afford an uptick in its unemployment rate."

In his letter, the governor cited L+M's transfer of positions covered by collective bargaining agreements to newly created L+M affiliates whose employees are not covered by union contracts, and the hospital's recent layoff of 44 employees who were not offered jobs at the newly created affiliates.

The transfer, Malloy wrote, "appears to be a legal maneuver designed to avoid providing the wage rates and health insurance agreed to in existing union contracts."

The governor called on L+M "to take every possible step" to reach a new labor agreement before an existing one expires next month.

"Contacting town officials before contract negotiations had begun to discuss the use of replacement workers in the event of a strike clearly runs counter to that concept," he wrote.

Finally, Malloy wrote, the roughly 180 employees working in L+M's cafeteria and environmental services departments who are covered by union contracts "deserve to know if they are at risk of elimination."

Cummings further responded:

"It is unfortunate the governor bases his assertions on false and misleading claims from union leaders and - before hearing the other side of the story - delivered his letter to the state Capitol news media before it arrived here at the hospital.

"His letter refers to serious and complex issues that are better discussed in a non-political manner than fed to the media at the behest of the unions. We would have expected better from our state's chief executive."

The NLRB has scheduled a hearing Monday on a union complaint that L+M violated federal labor laws by moving jobs out of the main hospital to outpatient offices in the community.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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