Workers at Fatima Hospital authorize strike notice, stage picket

Workers at Fatima Hospital authorize strike notice, stage picket

Cindy Fenchel, president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5110 at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence, stands in front of an informational picket line at the hospital on Wednesday, March 6. She says the picket line is to draw attention to issues, including patient and employee safety. The UNAP represents more than 400 workers at Fatima Hospital. Their contract expired on Jan. 31. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Members of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5110 of Our Lady of Fatima Hospital voted on March 5 to authorize their bargaining team to issue a 10-day strike notice, if necessary.

The union conducted an informational picket the next day, March 6, in front of the hospital on High Service Avenue to draw further attention to what members say is Prospect CharterCARE’s “failed commitments on patient and worker safety.”

“We don’t take this step lightly and we realize what’s at stake for each other, our patients and the community we are proudly a part of,” said Cindy Fenchel, president of UNAP Local 5100.

“It’s time for Prospect CharterCARE to come to the table and make substantive commitments on improving patient care and strengthening worker safety. If those commitments are not forthcoming, we will issue the strike notice and do whatever is necessary to improve the failing conditions inside Fatima Hospital.”

CharterCARE responded to the picket with a statement to news outlets.

“While we respect the union and its representation of our employees, we do not support the disruptive environment that it is trying to create,” said the company overseeing the hospital. “We are committed to bargaining in good faith with the union to reach an agreement that is fair to union members as well as our hospitals. We believe that the union has not given the bargaining process a sufficient chance to succeed, and we are disappointed that it has embarked on unnecessary actions that are counterproductive to a cooperative relationship.”

UNAP Local 5100 represents more than 400 certified nursing assistants, secretaries, phlebotomists, environmental workers, kitchen workers, laundry workers and other support staff at Fatima Hospital. The bargaining unit is working under a two-year contract that expired Jan. 31.

Since 2016, UNAP members say they’ve filed 150 incident reports with the hospital, 50 of which had to do with physical assault of employees, states a release. The union asked Prospect CharterCARE for copies of the reports, but those efforts were rejected, “forcing the union to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board,” said the union. That charge is currently under investigation by the NLRB, and a decision is forthcoming.

Fatima Hospital has seen a 60 percent increase in employee injuries involving patient movement between 2015 and 2016, according to UNAP. The union has asked for the most up-to-date information, but Prospect ChaterCARE has refused to provide it, say union members, again prompting another investigation from the NLRB.

UNAP members say they are frustrated by what they see as an untenable and often dangerous work environment, circumstances leading to significant staff turnover.

Workers stage an informational picket outside Our Lady of Fatima Hospital on Wednesday, March 6.