WINDHAM, Conn. (WTNH) — Nurses on strike at Windham Community Memorial Hospital are getting support from some Connecticut politicians.
The nurses started their 48-hour strike at 7 a.m. Thursday as the union and hospital officials are deadlocked over wages, healthcare benefits and overtime.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) were among the officials at Windham Hospital Friday.
“We need Hartford HealthCare to treat this amazing group of professionals, not just with dignity and respect, but in the same way they would treat male professionals,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysciewicz said. “That is not a lot to ask.”
Donna Handley, the president of Windham Hospital, said they are disappointed by the strike but will continue to try to find a compromise. In an updated statement Friday, she wrote, “It is clear that many nurses, and the general public, do not understand the hospital’s offer to the AFT union — and how we are working to attract and retain nurses in the midst of a national nursing shortage.”
As Windham Hospital continues to invest in nurses, we need to increase wages for newer RNs — 43% of our nurses have less than 5 years’ experience. Three months ago, on June 29, the hospital presented the AFT union an offer that would boost wages for these nurses by 20% or more over a four-year contract. A majority of these nurses would receive a 30% wage increase over that period.
We value all nurses’ experience and service and compensate these professionals accordingly. At full-time, the majority of Windham Hospital nurses earn more than $100,000 a year — without including any overtime, incentives and shift differentials. The average hourly wage for Windham Hospital nurses, at $44.86, is already 5.4% greater than the Connecticut state average of $42.56.
In every proposal to the union, the hospital’s offers have removed all language related to mandatory overtime, provided health insurance premium relief that equals 2% of wages, and added a staffing committee. Time and again, the hospital has compromised to find common ground throughout this 10-month-long negotiating process.
The hospital remains willing to consider a counterproposal from the union that works within our offer’s total economic package. We have encouraged the union to make such an offer and we have repeatedly said we are ready to meet and discuss it.Donna Handley, president of Windham Hospital
Hospital operations remain normal amid the strike. The union said the nurses will return to work at 7 a.m. Saturday.