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New London — Contract negotiations between Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and the union representing 800 nurses and technicians scheduled for 1 p.m. today have been canceled, after the two sides failed to agree about whether the session would be open to union members.
Each side blamed the other for the impasse.
The union insisted that the session be open to its members, while the hospital wanted participation limited to the two negotiating teams.
“By taking this position, the union is showing it is more focused on theatrics and grandstanding than it is on negotiating,” hospital spokesman Mike O’Farrell said in a statement Monday night. “Given the seriousness of the situation, we are deeply disappointed by this development.”
He said the union’s refusal is “unlawful” and that the hospital would file an unfair labor practice charge against the union for “failure to negotiate in good faith.”
AFT Connecticut spokesman Matt O’Connor said in his statement Monday night that a “closed” session would shut members out at a crucial time.
“We have been clear on this point,” he said. “We cannot agree to further disenfranchising our members and allowing (L+M’s) record of false claims and mischaracterizations of the issues being discussed to continue.”
He said the union’s negotiating committee members plan to be at the Best Western Olympic Inn in Groton at 1 p.m. as scheduled, and expect “a large crowd” of nurses and technicians “to be there to witness what we sincerely hope will be a session attended by (L+M’s) representatives.”
The session would be the 16th since contract negotiations began. Nurses and technicians began a four-day strike Nov. 27, nine days after the last contract expired, but were not able to return to work after the strike because of a lockout the hospital had previously announced. The hospital said the lockout was necessary because of threats of intermittent strikes that the union denies. Since the strike, the hospital has been staffed by 150 to 250 replacement nurses and technicians.
The union wants the hospital to pledge to let nurses and technicians move with their jobs if outpatient departments are moved out of the main hospital to L+M affiliates. L+M is offering to guarantee not to transfer jobs in acute care areas only, and would provide six special benefits and programs such as retraining and severance pay to any nurses and technicians displaced by future transfers.
O’Farrell said the cancelation of the talks means the lockout, in its eighth day Monday, will continue.
“We want our employees back,” he said, adding that will not happen “until the union is ready to resume focused discussions.”
O’Connor said the union hopes L+M representatives come to today’s session after all, and that they will be “ready to work to reach a mutual resolution on the patient care delivery issues at the heart of this crisis.”