Lifespan, Rhode Island’s largest hospital network, has hired more than 1,000 nurses and other replacement workers for Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital in anticipation of a possible strike Monday.
The United Nurses and Allied Professional (UNAP) Local 5098 rejected the hospitals’ offer of a three-year contract and last week issued a 10-day strike notice. The two sides have been in federally-mediated negotiations.
Lifespan officials said in a statement late Tuesday that the company had wired $10 million to a temporary staffing agency to secure the replacement workers. The hires had to be made in time to “mobilize people, make travel arrangements and secure accommodations,” the statement reads.
Hospital officials had warned UNAP that if it did not rescind its strike notice by the end of business Tuesday, they would move ahead with hiring replacement workers – and take the $10 million out of their contract offer.
UNAP officials accused Lifespan of using “bullying tactics” to get employees to accept an “unacceptable contract.”
"Our members will not be intimidated or bullied into accepting a contract by wealthy Lifespan executives,’’ UNAP Local 5098 President Frank Sims said in a statement. “This union resoundingly rejected a bad deal because it fails to address the systemic problems of wage competitiveness that lead to high staff turnover and a lack of critical support and resources for frontline caregivers.”
Lifespan said it has hired temporary staff for four work days –from Monday, at 3 p.m. through Friday at 3 p.m.
UNAP had planned a three-day strike, starting Monday. However, the temporary agency, Huffmaster Strike Services, which Lifespan hired has a minimum of four-days for replacement workers, effectively locking-out union employees for a fourth day, Ray Sullivan, a UNAP spokesman, said.