Business & Tech

Tufts warns of a possible Christmas strike by nurses

Tufts Medical Center nurses staged a one-day strike in July.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Tufts Medical Center nurses staged a one-day strike in July.

Executives at Tufts Medical Center are warning that the hospital’s unionized nurses might stage a second strike this year, around Christmas.

Hospital officials sent a memo about the matter to employees Tuesday after hearing from members of the nursing staff who were concerned about the possibility of another strike.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association already held a walkout of its 1,200 Tufts nurses in July.

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“We very much believe . . . that the vast majority of our nurses want to settle this contract and do not want another strike,” Tufts chief executive Dr. Michael Wagner and chief nursing officer Terry Hudson-Jinks said in an e-mail to employees.

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“A Christmastime strike would be ineffective in resolving the contract and a waste of resources, but most importantly it would be stressful and unkind to patients who are hospitalized and to all of the hospital staff who are impacted during a work stoppage,” they said. “However, if the MNA calls for a strike, we will be ready.”

The nurses union isn’t saying whether another strike is possible.

“We are neither confirming nor denying that at this point,” said Jennifer Johnson, a union spokeswoman.

Union members must vote to authorize a strike, and the union has not scheduled a vote. Union leaders don’t usually discuss a strike publicly until such a vote has been taken.

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If nurses vote to authorize a strike, union leaders can set a date for a walkout, but they must give at least 10 days’ notice.

The contract negotiations between Tufts and the nurses association have stretched for more than 18 months.

The two sides have been at odds on wages, staffing, and retirement benefits.

Tensions came to a head over the summer when the union held a one-day walkout at Tufts.

The hospital locked out the nurses for four more days and used temporary replacement workers to care for patients.

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Since that time, both hospital and union officials said they’ve gotten closer to reaching agreement, but they’re not there yet.

“The nurses and their patients are ready to see this settled,” Johnson said.

“We’ve reached a potential compromise on retirement . . . We’re not far apart on wages . . . Staffing is the area that needs to be addressed next,” she said.

Tufts spokeswoman Rhonda Mann said: “We ask the MNA to disavow talk of a holiday strike and instead make significant movement on the most recent Tufts MC proposal.”

The two sides are scheduled to continue contract talks on Dec. 12.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.