L+M and union trade accusations of unfair labor practices

New London — As the lockout at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital approached the end of its second week Thursday, the two sides in the labor dispute accused each other in unfair labor practice charges of not negotiating in good faith.

The hospital filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday. It alleged that AFT Connecticut, the union that represents the 800 nurses and technicians involved in the contract dispute, refuses to bargain in good faith by setting a condition for new meetings that workers be allowed to observe, even though that is not a previously agreed requirement of the sessions. L+M asks the labor board to order the union to “cease and desist insisting” that nurses and technicians be allowed to attend the sessions.

The charges were filed after talks that had been scheduled for Tuesday were canceled when the two sides could not agree on whether observers would be allowed at the sessions.

The union also filed new charges Monday and again on Wednesday, adding to several it already has pending with the labor board. Matt O’Connor, spokesman for the union, said the new charges allege that the hospital is negotiating in bad faith by releasing information about a new proposal to the medical staff before it was released to the union negotiating team. The charge referred to an email L+M President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cummings send to the medical staff on Monday. The charges also say the hospital’s cancellation of workers’ health insurance is an unfair labor practice and that it has refused to meet for negotiations.

O’Connor said the charges would be amended with an additional complaint about the proposal from the hospital released Wednesday offering bonuses to nurses and technicians if the contract is ratified by 11:59 p.m. Monday. The offer should have first been presented to the negotiating team at a meeting, he said, but was instead emailed to the union’s chief negotiator and released to the media.

As of Thursday evening, no new talks had been scheduled.

Nurses and technicians went on a four-day strike Nov. 27. The hospital, staffed with replacements since the strike, began a lockout Nov. 30, saying the nurses and technicians could not return until there is a new contract.

j.benson@theday.com

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