Source says contract limits number of jobs L+M can move

New London - The newly ratified contract between Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and the unions for nurses and technicians limits the number of positions the hospital can potentially transfer to affiliated practices outside the hospital, a source close to the negotiations told The Day.

In voting Monday, an overwhelming majority of the nearly 800 members of two union locals affiliated with AFT Connecticut endorsed a tentative agreement reached last week. Both sides agreed not to disclose details.

"At the end of the day, you're looking at identifying and agreeing to the scope of any potential transfers," the source said of the agreement. "It takes care of a lot of the concerns the union had."

A union spokesman, Matt O'Connor, declined to comment on the information the source provided.

During negotiations, the union had sought protections for members whose jobs were eliminated when the hospital transferred services to an affiliated nonunion physician organization, the L+M Medical Group, also known as L+M Physician Association, or LMPA.

Under the new contract, "the scope of potential transfers is very limited," and those who would be affected are identified, the source said. Affected employees would have priority in being rehired in the organization, they would have "some severance rights," and seniority would be a factor in determining which employees ultimately were displaced, the source said.

As for the seven union members who lost their jobs last year when the hospital transferred its OB-GYN and outpatient mental health clinics, the source said, "Much would be done to make them whole."

The contract calls for wage increases that are close to the cost-of-living index, according to the source, who also said some per diem employees who had not been covered by a previous contract would be covered under the new one.

"My impression is that it's an agreement that will maintain economic viability (for the hospital) and ensure workers' status - a win-win," the source said.

A National Labor Relations Board judge who was hearing the union's unfair labor practices complaint against the hospital had urged the sides to settle their differences. As part of the new agreement, all matters before the NLRB have been withdrawn.

The NLRB judge is expected to review portions of the contract that pertain to the issues brought before him.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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