WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Healthcare workers at Windham Hospital in Willimantic began a two-day strike Monday amid contract negotiations
Technical and service employees, represented by AFT Local 5099, are picketing outside the facility. They will be joined by nurses that went on strike in September.
It’s been almost a year since the previous contract expired. Contract negotiations are deadlocked over wages, health care benefits, and overtime. The union said there have been virtually no raises in the 6 years since Hartford HealthCare took over Windham Hospital.
Donna Handley, the president of Windham Hospital, issued a statement Monday, saying the hospital has offered a contract that is “fair, equitable, and market-competitive.”
The union, however, said the offer was for very small raises over the four years of the contract. The hospital then took retroactive pay off the table when the contract was voted down.
“There’s something wrong inside,” Heather Howlett, Local 5099’s president said. “Hartford HealthCare is not doing what they need to do. All of us, we don’t feel safe at work. We’re exhausted.”
“A strike is not in anyone’s best interests, and will not help to resolve our negotiations,” Handley wrote. “Windham Hospital has respectfully responded to every one of the issues the unions identified as most important to them.”
Last month, the nurses’ strike was about what the union called unfair labor practices. They have been without a contract for close to a year now, and at the time, Handley told News 8 that she offered a contract that would boost the wages of most nurses by 30% over the next four years.
According to Handley, the hospital’s latest offer to workers on strike includes:
- Wage increases and market-based increases to boost recruitment and retention
- Significant health insurance premium contribution relief amounting to an additional 2% of wages
- Elimination of mandatory overtime language
- Other contract enhancements including the expansion of preceptor pay and the expansion of reimbursement for property damage
More information on the negotiations can be found online,
This strike is only the latest in a series of issues with Windham Hospital, however. The hospital’s owner, Hartford HealthCare, wants to permanently close the facility’s maternity ward. That move has been blocked by the state and protested by healthcare advocates from around the state.
Labor leaders and elected officials, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Congressman Joe Courtney (D-2nd district), and Windham Mayor Thomas DeVivo, are expected to speak at a rally outside the hospital on Tuesday.