The Unemployment Assistance Department has sided with Saint Vincent Hospital, meaning striking nurses in Worcester are no longer entitled to unemployment benefits, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the hospital . The ruling said benefits should be halted starting the week ending August 7. Any striking nurse who has received unemployment since then must reimburse the full amount to the state.
However, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has said it will appeal the decision and nurses will not have to reimburse wages for August “for the foreseeable future.”
“For most nurses their access to unemployment was nearing its end anyway, so it will have no impact on the strike or the nurses resolve to maintain the strike to ensure a fair settlement that ensures the safety of their workers. patients, resolves retaliation issues underlying a number of Tenet’s unfair labor practices throughout the strike, and ensures that these experienced nurses can return to their original posts, ”MNA said in a statement.
The hospital, owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, has called for a review of unemployment benefits for its striking nurses. On September 1, the DUA told the hospital that its claim raised “sufficient issues to warrant the establishment of eligibility issues” regarding the striking nurses’ unemployment benefit claims.
As the DUA weighed the decision, which was released this week, benefits were suspended.
“We understand and fear that this decision could cause difficulties for nurses on strike. We believe that the proposed contract, once ratified, will bring immediate and significant improvement in economic benefits that can help offset these difficulties, ”the hospital said in a statement. “Saint Vincent remains committed to ensuring that every striking nurse who wishes to return can do so. We have offered reasonable and achievable solutions to help any nurse whose previous position may not be immediately available. “
Friday, the strike, which began on March 8, will reach seven months. The MP admitted that for many nurses unemployment benefits were about to end regardless of the decision.
Most of the 700 or so nurses on strike have already found jobs in other hospitals, vaccination clinics or other facilities to support them during the strike, MNA said. Despite seeking employment in places beyond Saint-Vincent Hospital, the MP said, almost all nurses plan to return to the hospital after the work stoppage is over.
Under Massachusetts law, employees who strike are entitled to unemployment benefits. However, they are disqualified as soon as the strike causes a disruption of services.
On August 2, Saint-Vincent Hospital began to reduce its inpatient and outpatient capacity in several regions due to the ongoing nurses’ strike, the hospital said.
Affected areas include progressive care units, psychiatric beds, cardiac rehabilitation, and wound care.
In a statement last week, although state officials Mary Keefe and David LeBoeuf said the decision to cut services was more punitive to the MNA than necessary.
“It is irresponsible that the CEO of St. Vincent and Tenet, Carolyn Jackson, has released a public statement saying that hospital service closures are being used to justify denial of unemployment benefits to workers involved in a legal strike “, says the press release. “The hospital has cut back on essential services under the guise of ‘temporary shutdowns’ so they don’t have to face the public liability hearing (required by state law).”
Tenet and the MNA solved the central issue of the strike, which was the staff, in mid-August. However, a back-to-work provision extended the strike by nearly two months.
Tenet said about 85% of the nearly 700 striking nurses can return to their original posts. Nurses are adamant that every nurse returns to their original post.
At the end of September, Saint-Vincent Hospital eclipsed the hiring of 200 permanent replacement nurses. The hospital said over time it will hire more permanent replacements, which will reduce the percentage of striking nurses who return to their original posts.