Average pay for full-time nurses at the top of the Tufts Medical pay scale is $152,000, but the union says the salaries are not competitive with those at other teaching hospitals.
Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association on Thursday rejected a “final” contract offer from Tufts Medical Center, setting up a showdown that could lead to a strike. The “no” vote was expected. Union leaders had previously said the hospital’s offer wasn’t good enough, and that they were encouraging rank-and-file nurses to vote against it.
The association represents 1,200 nurses at Tufts, a teaching hospital in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The union refused to say how many nurses cast ballots or how many voted to reject the contract offer, saying only that the response was “overwhelming.”
The vote was scheduled after Tufts Medical officials last week made what they called their best and final offer to the nurses.
“I’m really proud of our nurses for standing up together,” said Mary Cornacchia, cochairwoman of the bargaining unit. “This vote does send a very clear message to the hospital administration that they need to revisit their last, best, and final offer.”
Hospital officials have said that their offer invests $30 million in “nursing wages, benefits, and support.”
“It’s a very fair proposal . . . It sets us up for continuing to be successful,” Tufts Medical’s chief executive, Dr. Michael Wagner, told the Globe earlier this week.
The hospital has proposed raises of 10.5 percent over about four years to the more than 700 nurses at the top of the pay scale.
The rest of the nurses would receive a 5.5 percent pay increase over that time period, in addition to 5 percent annual step raises, which are already part of the contract.
Nurses at Tufts Medical make less than their peers at some of Boston’s other teaching hospitals. The average pay for full-time nurses at the top of the Tufts pay scale is $152,000, according to hospital officials.
“They need to provide . . . competitive compensation so we can recruit and retain the experienced nurses that we need,” Cornacchia said.
The union also opposes the medical center’s push to end its pension program and to move nurses who still have pensions into a so-called defined contribution retirement plan known as a 403(b).
Tufts Medical said the 341 nurses who would make that switch would not lose any benefits as a result, but union officials said that some nurses would have to take more out of their paychecks to maintain their benefits.
The hospital and the nurses union have been negotiating a new contract since April 2016.
They planned to go back to the negotiating table on Monday.
In March, the nurses voted to authorize union leaders to call a one-day strike “if and when they feel it is necessary.”
The union must provide 10 days’ notice of a strike.
Hospital officials said nurses who strike for one day would not be allowed back at work for four additional days. They said they would have to spend $6 million to hire temporary replacement workers if the union nurses go on strike.
It would be the first strike ny nurses in Boston in over 30 years. Last June, the nurses union and Brigham and Women’s Hospital were in a tense contract dispute, but ultimately reached an agreement.
Tufts Medical nurses were just hours from striking in 2011 when both sides agreed to a last-minute deal.
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