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Windham Hospital workers go on strike for 48 hours

They argue that they're facing unfair labor conditions.

WINDHAM, Conn. — Starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning, nurses at Windham Hospital in Willimantic kicked off a 48-hour strike.

Local Union 5041  is made up of about 100 nurses, who say they're dealing with unfair labor practices right now. 

“We haven’t had raises in three years…so now we need to talk about the cost of living, and as this is happening at the same time, guess what else is happening? Our insurance is going up," said Andrea Riley, Local Union 5041 President and Windham Hospital Nurse.

Union members are calling for better pay to match the market, better insurance benefits and the elimination of mandatory overtime.

Hartford Healthcare, which owns the hospital, agrees with the union on the mandatory overtime part. Other points, however, they have not been able to come to an agreement on. The parties did meet on Monday to negotiate, but were not able to come to a conclusion. 

The hospital said they have an offer on the table to address all of their concerns, including pay adjustments, wage increases, and insurance premium contribution relief.

RELATED: Windham Hospital warns of disruptions as nurses prepare to strike

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Donna Handley, Windham Hospital President, responded to the strike with the following statement:

"The hospital has worked hard to prevent nurses from walking out on patients. We are disappointed by the union’s decision. We have continually compromised to find common ground throughout this long negotiating process. We remain hopeful that the parties will be able to reach agreement on a new contract in the near future."

Handley went on to say, "The open issues are limited to wages and health insurance. There are no open issues relating to staffing, safety or patient care. The hospital remains willing to consider any reasonable counterproposal. We have encouraged the union to make such an offer and we have said we are ready to meet and discuss it. "

RELATED: Windham Hospital nurses prepare to strike over pay, benefits

However, the union doesn't feel like they're bargaining in a fair manner.

"We're asking Hartford Healthcare to come back to the table on Monday with good, fair bargaining practices. And to meet us halfway so that we can have a contract that the union and the hospital can bring forward to the union members and sign and pass," Riley said. 

Until they can come to an agreement, union members plan to stay on strike. They plan to get back to work by Saturday at 7 a.m. 

While they're on strike, Hartford Healthcare has moved around other nurses from other hospitals in their system to fill the gaps. In the meantime, they say things will go on as normal at Windham Hospital. 

On Friday, the union members will still be on strike, but they're also hosting a rally with state and local leaders. That event will bring attention, they say, to a larger issue in the state of CT with patient care. 

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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