Thursday morning, nurses at Tufts Medical Center tried to return to work after their one-day strike, but they are now locked out by the hospital.
The 1,200 nurses completed their one-day strike early Thursday morning, which they said was a move they had to make.
“Our 24-hour strike was necessary because the hospital refused to negotiate a fair agreement that protects our patients and values our nurses. The strike has shown the incredible strength that comes when Tufts nurses and our community stand together,” said Mary Havlicek Cornacchia, an OR nurse and a bargaining unit co-chair, in a statement through the nurses’ union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).
“Tufts nurses are ready to return to work and care for our patients on Thursday morning,” she added. “If the hospital follows through on its threat to lock us out for four days, that decision and its consequences will entirely be the responsibility of Tufts Medical Center.”
About 100 nurses were turned away by hospital security this morning, according to the MNA, and were told they could not enter the hospital until Monday.
Tufts Medical Center reportedly warned the nurses that if they went on strike following a negotiation meeting on Tuesday that failed to produce an agreement, the nurses would be barred for four additional days, with the replacement nurses the hospital brought in taking over patient care during that time.
The strike on Wednesday was the largest nurses’ strike in the state’s history and the first strike at a major Boston hospital in about 30 years.
The nurses say they are fighting for fair retirement benefits, competitive wages and safer patient care concerning staffing levels and time spent with patients.
Tufts Medical Center officials held a news conference Thursday morning during which spokeswoman Rhonda Mann said that the nurses were aware that striking would force the hospital to bring in help.
"Part of the MNA playbook is staging a dramatic scene the morning after a strike. This is a stunt orchestrated for the media," she said, according to State House News Service. "The union was aware — well before it issued a strike notice — that a strike would force us to bring in expert nurses for a contractually-required five-day period. We communicated this to our nurses through emails, meetings and letters sent to their homes. Nurses who came to work today may continue to work during the five-day period. Those who chose not to work today know they can return Monday."
Officials said at the news conference that the crux of the issue is the nurses’ pension and noted to reporters that the hospital is facing financial constraints.
The nurses have seen support from many in the area, as well. Nurses from other Boston-area hospitals stopped by the picket line on Wednesday, and the Boston Building Trades Council and members of Carpenters Local 33 said that they would stand in solidarity with the nurses on Thursday, July 13, and Friday, July 14.