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Windham Hospital union workers demand pay raises, elimination of mandatory overtime

Union members said they are ultimately demanding safety from the healthcare system— safety for staff members which they said affects patient care.

WINDHAM, Conn. — Unionized medical professionals and other staff members at the Hartford HealthCare-owned Windham Hospital protested Monday as they look to raise awareness around what they call a “patient care crisis.”

Union members said they are ultimately demanding safety from the healthcare system— safety for staff members which they said affects patient care.

The crowd in Willimantic included nurses, technical professionals and skilled support staff.

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The top items union members are calling for include pay raises, better health insurance plans and a decrease or elimination of mandatory overtime for nurses.

Union leaders said all of these things will help with retention and staffing levels, which they said are critical in the effort to provide quality service.

“These are patients that were not able to see their doctors in the past two years so they’ve become more sick. The acuity of our patients is higher. This is not just happening in the state of Connecticut. This is happening on a national level. Nurses are not coming to the bedside anymore. We’re being overworked. We’re being underpaid,” said Andrea Riley, president of Windham Federation of Professional Nurses, AFT Local 5041.

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“Imagine you’re on a 12-hour shift and now you’re being told you can’t go home. You have to stay for another four hours. If you’re tired, how can you properly take care of your patients?” said Heather Howlett, President of WCMH United Employees, AFT Local 5099.

In a statement to FOX61, Windham Hospital President Donna Handley wrote:

“We at Windham Hospital are disappointed that the Windham Federation of Nurses, AFT Local 5041, and Windham United, AFT Local 5099, have not yet agreed upon new collective bargaining agreements for our nurses and for our technical, non-professional, skilled maintenance, and clerical colleagues, respectively.

The hospital has participated in 16 bargaining sessions with each Local, and remains committed to bargaining in good faith until the parties achieve a satisfactory compromise. Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for June 7 and June 8.

AFT has notified the Hospital that it will engage in informational picketing at the Hospital on Monday, June 6 from 6 AM to 6 PM. This is not a strike or work stoppage, and all Windham Hospital facilities and programs shall remain open for business during the picketing. Windham Hospital is committed to ensuring its patients, visitors, and colleagues are safe and undisturbed during this event.

We look forward to resuming negotiations and continuing to work with the federal mediator who has been assisting the parties, as we know that collective bargaining agreements are achieved through compromise at the bargaining table, and not on a picket line.”

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Angelo Bavaro is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at abavaro@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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