More than 1,000 nurses began picketing outside the main entrance of Tufts Medical Center Wednesday morning, kicking off the first strike at a major Boston hospital in about 30 years.
The strike began after a last-ditch effort at negotiations on Tuesday failed to find agreement between Tufts Medical Center and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing the 1,200 registered nurses.
The union is seeking better staffing “to ensure nurses have more time to spend with their patients,” a competitive salary and to preserve and enhance their pension benefit.
The union argues that Tufts nurses are the lowest paid in the city and have the worst pension benefits in Boston.
The strike began Wednesday at 7 a.m. and is intended to go until 6:59 a.m. on Thursday, making it a one-day strike, the union said.
However, Tufts will reportedly bar the nurses from returning to work for an additional four days. The medical center — which has seen multiple financial losses in recent fiscal years — said that it has more than 320 experienced nurses coming in to deliver care during the strike.
“We will deliver the same exceptional care during the MNA strike that we always have at Tufts MC. #WeArePrepared,” a tweet from the hospital’s account reads.
In a statement on the Tufts website, a spokesperson said that “The MNA had an opportunity to reach an agreement tonight; they instead chose to strike and have our nurses walk out on patients. “
“We went to the table today and offered a path forward that met the needs of our nurses,” the statement continues. “The union recycled their retirement proposal that is risky for nurses and expensive for the hospital.”
Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, an OR nurse and bargaining unit co-chair, said that the union also said that they were ready for an agreement but that “Tufts management is determined to force a strike and a subsequent lock out of our nurses.”
The union also expressed concerned that the replacement nurses are a threat to patient care because they don’t know the hospital and aren’t as highly specialized.
“It can take several weeks to train even an experienced nurse to provide quality care under normal conditions in a new hospital setting,” said Havlicek Cornacchia in a statement. “How can they possibly expect to safely operate this hospital with nurses drawn from all parts of the country who have no experience with our facility? It is irresponsible. Instead of issuing ultimatums and spending millions of dollars to ignore us, they should have listened to us and offered a fair settlement.”
The strike is the largest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts history, according to the MNA.