There are labor pains at the modern day manger as employees of Women & Infants Hospital have overwhelmingly authorized a strike if a new contract can’t be hammered out between Care New England, the management company that runs the Providence birthing facility, and SEIU 1199NE, the union that represents its workers.
Employees voted 1,385 to 38 to authorize the strike.
“We are sending a message to Care New England executives that they need to put our patients over profits and listen more to their frontline staff,” said Jamie Manfredfi, a nurse who works in the neonatal intensive care unit. “My co-workers in the NICU are united with workers throughout the hospital for safe staffing in our contract negotiations.”
In a statement, Care New England said hospital operations won’t be disrupted if employees call for a work stoppage.
“Women & Infants Hospital is prepared to respond to any threat of a strike with a comprehensive contingency plan that will enable us to maintain our full complement of services and continue to provide high quality, uninterrupted care to the women of this community. Should a work stoppage occur, the hospital will issue detailed instructions to the patient and provider community on how to continue to access services and programs at Women & Infants.”
CNE spokeswoman Amy Blustein declined to elaborate.
In its prepared statement, CNE said it hopes a strike can be avoided. “We certainly hope that there will not be a strike, and we are working hard to reach an agreement. We believe that the best approach to reach a fair, competitive contract is to continue to bargain in good faith, as we have been doing since September 2016.”
After voting to authorize a strike, employees donned buttons that say, “I don’t want to strike but I will.”
Patrick Quinn, executive vice president for SEIU 199NE who is on the negotiating team, said in a statement, “Workers at the hospital are united until we win a contract that ensures good jobs, safe staffing, and quality care.”
He said, “Our membership has grown frustrated by corporate management’s unwillingness to listen and address the concerns of the people that do work at the hospital over the last several years and during current contract negotiations,” he said. “It is the workers who have made Women & Infants a nationally recognized hospital for generations of Rhode Island patients and newborns – not overpaid executives. ”
Blustein confirmed the two parties continue are continuing to meet today. In health care facilities, employees must give management 10 day notice of a strike.
Last week Women & Infants employees organized a high profile picket in front of Care Ne England corporate offices to call attention to contract negotiations.
“We want more staff so we can work our normal hours,” Carol Reuter, a nurse who has worked at Women & Infants for 30 years, said. “That would be the best result, to get new people hired.”