Negotiations between L+M and union last for hours

Groton — Stalled contract negotiations between Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and two unions representing some 800 nurses and health care technicians resumed Saturday afternoon and continued late into the night.

The talks, the first since Dec. 3, were still in progress more than nine hours after they began. Neither side would comment on whether a settlement was imminent.

More than 300 members of the unions attended the session, according to Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the unions.

“It’s not likely that we’ll have anything more to report until there is an agreement — or if this latest effort doesn’t produce a settlement that ends the lockout,” O’Connor said shortly before 8 p.m.

The negotiations, with a federal mediator present, took place at the Best Western Olympic Inn on Route 12. They began at 1 p.m. and resumed following a late-afternoon break. The sides occupied three second-floor meeting rooms in the hotel.

Saturday’s meeting was moved up from Monday at the request of federal mediator John Carpino, according to Mike O’Farrell, an L+M spokesman.

Union members, who staged a four-day strike that concluded Nov. 30, have been prevented from returning to their jobs. The lockout imposed by hospital management entered its 14th day Saturday.

Both sides have grown anxious to settle the dispute and the hardships it has placed on them. The hospital has had to pay replacement workers and has incurred other expenses, and the nurses and technicians have had to go without paychecks and await unemployment compensation.

By late Saturday night, the hospital had issued no statement regarding the latest talks.

Union members were allowed to attend Saturday’s session in an arrangement the two sides worked out after L+M balked at the union’s insistence that members be allowed to observe negotiations. The hospital had asked the National Labor Relations Board to order the union to “cease and desist insisting” that nurses and technicians be allowed at the sessions.

Talks scheduled for Tuesday were canceled when the two sides could not reach an agreement on the issue.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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