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New London — A marathon negotiation session between Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and two unions representing 800 nurses and technicians wrapped up before just before 11 p.m. Sunday after going the better part of two days.
The two sides promised to continue the talks today, according to L+M spokesman Michael O'Farrell.
The negotiations had begun at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Best Western Olympic Inn on Route 12 in Groton with a federal mediator and 300 union members present. They continued through Sunday except for a break Saturday night, O'Farrell said.
Matt O'Connor, spokesman for the union that represents nurses and technicians, said Sunday in an e-mail that "talks are ongoing, but no news to report."
He said the union is not making any further comment at this point but would send out an alert when there were developments he could share.
Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the negotiations appeared to be continuing at the hotel. Several dozen people sat in a second-floor conference room, talking quietly and seriously across tables and in chairs organized into circles.
Union representatives were present, though they looked and sounded exhuasted.
On a Facebook page called "Rnlpnnegotiations," this was posted on Sunday: "We have been up through the night and would like to invite members back to the Best Western at 1:00 today for information. We will be in the same room we were in yesterday. Come and get your information straight from leadership, we want you to know where we are in the negotiating process. You have questions...we will have answers."
The negotiations had been moved up from Monday at the request of federal mediator John Carpino. The talks are the first since Dec. 3.
Union members, who staged a four-day strike that concluded Nov. 30, have been prevented from returning to their jobs after L+M imposed a lockout that is now in its 16th day.
The hospital, staffed by replacement workers since the strike, said the regular workers could not return until a new contract is signed. It said the lockout was necessary because of a union threat of intermittent strikes. The union denies making that threat.
The employees also have just hours left to ratify the hospital's latest contract proposal and receive bonuses. The hospital has offered its full-time nurses and technicians $1,000 bonuses and their part-time counterparts $500 each if they ratify the offer by 11:59 p.m. today.
Under the proposal the hospital wants union members to vote on, nurses and technicians in non-acute-care departments would be eligible for retraining, bumping rights, severance pay and other benefits if they were laid off due to transfers of those departments to L+M affiliates outside the main hospital. No acute care departments would be transferred, the proposal states.
The union wants the new contract to include language to protect nurses and technicians' jobs if their departments are moved out of the main hospital, so that they would be able to "follow the work" to the new location and would remain part of the union.