UPDATE: Nurses reject offer from RWJUH — but strike is not imminent

Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick voted down a proposal from management by a 3-1 margin this week — but that does not necessarily mean a strike is imminent.

United Steel Workers Local 4-200, the union representing the nurses, was given the ability to authorize a strike on July 10 — the first step of a two-step process for calling a strike. The union also is required to formally notify the hospital of a possibility that it will strike, which would start a 10-day period that gives the hospital the ability to implement contingencies.

It is not clear if the hospital has been formally notified — meaning it is unclear if the 10-day window has started.

The union could not be immediately reached for comment.

The vote to turn down a potential agreement was somewhat of a surprise.

On Monday, Local 4-200 and the hospital appeared to have reached a tentative agreement. The rank-and-file voters, however, did not agree.

A spokesperson for RWJUH-New Brunswick said the hospital was disappointed. It released the following statement:

“We are disappointed the union did not ratify the agreement reached between the union and the hospital, which both sides thought was fair. The hospital will continue to negotiate with the union in an effort to reach an agreement.

“Please be assured that we have an extensive contingency plan in place so that patient care has as minimal disruption as possible in the worst-case scenario of a strike. This includes contracts with national nursing agencies to ensure that hospital operations are maintained, and patient care is delivered.

“The hospital will remain open and operational.

“We encourage patients to contact the hospital directly with any questions.”

This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the day.