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New London - The union that represents workers at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital is accusing the hospital of undermining contract negotiations by advertising for replacement workers in case there is a strike.
"They're really showing they don't want negotiations, they want a strike," Lisa D'Abrosca, president of the AFT Connecticut local that represents 540 registered nurses, said Tuesday.
Two negotiation sessions have taken place thus far for a new contract for registered nurses, and a second group, technicians and licensed practical nurses, and more sessions are scheduled for this week and next, L+M spokesman Mike O'Farrell said. The current contract expires Nov. 16.
D'Abrosca and Matt O'Connor, spokesman for AFT Connecticut, criticized the timing of L+M's actions to engage a Jacksonville Beach, Fla., firm, U.S. Allied, to hire replacement workers, given the early stage of negotiations. U.S. Allied is advertising for replacements on its website, offering $70 per hour plus paid housing and travel expenses. In July, L+M asked the city for use of the Ocean Beach Park lot for replacement workers' vehicles in case of a strike.
"We contend this is premature," O'Connor said.
O'Farrell said the state Department of Public Health requires hospitals to have strike contingency plans. Hospitals are to have these plans "upon receipt of notice of an anticipated strike action," and can impose fines if plans are not in place by five days before the expected start of a strike.
"We can't put a plan together in three days," O'Farrell said. "We hope for nothing more than successful negotiations and a timely resolution. However, the state dictates that we have a full and thorough plan in place in the unfortunate event that the union issues a strike notice. While we hope to never face that situation, we are required to have a plan in place."
- Judy Benson