A nurses union at Maine Medical Center says the hospital’s decision to restrict some forms of paid leave is unfair and possibly illegal.

The Maine State Nurses Association, which represents nurses at the state’s largest hospital, said paid leave for bereavement, jury duty and military service for union nurses was eliminated earlier this month. Paid leave for those purposes had been provided to nursing staff prior to the union’s formation last year and before the union and hospital negotiated their first contract in September, union and hospital officials agreed.

A spokesman for the hospital acknowledged that the benefits were cut, but said the hospital was free to do so because paid leave for those purposes wasn’t discussed in negotiations that led to the contract.

“During the course of negotiations, there were no proposals made by nurses’ representatives concerning paid leave that the union has expressed concerns about,” spokesman Clay Holtzman said. “Had such a proposal been made, MMC would have considered and bargained over it in good faith.”

Holtzman said that the contract with the nurses explicitly states that the hospital “shall not be deemed to have agreed to any term or condition of employment” that’s not specifically included in the contract, and he said MaineHealth, MMC’s parent organization, has explicit paid leave provisions in its contracts with some other unions.

The nurses union could file a grievance over the change in benefits, he said, but hasn’t done so.



Mary Kate O’Sullivan, a registered nurse and union steward, said the MSNA learned of the cuts when members obtained copies of an email exchange last week among some of the hospital’s managers. The union provided a copy to the Press Herald, and the hospital said the exchange appeared to be authentic.

The hospital’s director of labor relations, C.J. Rogers, sent an email on Dec. 15 alerting managers that the leaves were not part of the union contract and registered nurses who were members of the union would no longer be eligible for those paid leaves.

A manager whose name could not be determined from the emails replied that he had already given a registered nurse three days of paid leave. Rogers said that the hospital wasn’t going to take away leave that had already been granted but that managers should not approve it going forward.

Members of the nurses’ union held a rally Wednesday morning to protest the elimination of the benefits and one union leader, dressed as Santa Claus, delivered a basket of coal to the office of Maine Medical Center President Jeff Sanders. Holtzman said employees in Sanders’ office accepted the basket.

O’Sullivan said the union wants to discuss the change with hospital officials and will file an unfair labor practices charge against the hospital if necessary.


“We’re entitled to maintain the benefits we already have,” she said. Taking away the paid leave “is petty and Maine Med being petty is not new to us union nurses.”

O’Sullivan said she thinks hospital management is still upset that the nurses formed a union and managers aren’t treating the nurses with the same compassion that the nurses are supposed to provide patients and their families.

“We see death all the time at work and we are comforting folks on their worst days,” she said, but the hospital’s management is “not there for us when we have to deal with personal loss in our own lives. It’s a choice that they’re making, to take these benefits away from us.”

Maine Medical Center is a 700-bed teaching hospital and the flagship of the MaineHealth system.

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