Union representing nurses at RWJU-NB to give strike notice today

Official notice begins 10-day window that could lead to strike

The union representing the nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick are expected to give the hospital a 10-day strike notice today – a warning that gives nurses the ability to walk off the job 10 days from now if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, union head Judy Danella announced.The union representing the nurses, United Steel Workers Local 4-200, had been given this ability to call for a strike on July 10, but had yet to do so. The notice Monday puts the clock in motion.RWJUH officials certainly have been preparing for a potential strike, planning contingencies since July 10, if not before. It is unclear what a strike would mean for patients at the hospital.Danella told ROI-NJ this weekend that the union still is hopeful to have an agreement on a new contract. Its issues, she said, involve pay and staffing.Danella acknowledged the hospital has been attempting to increase its staff, but she said the number of nurses still is not at the level needed for a Level 1 trauma center.“We usually get the sickest of the sick, which we’re accustomed to, and we’ve done it for the 30 years I’ve been there,” she said. “We want to ensure that the acuity of the patients is taken into account for our daily staffing numbers.” The sides thought they had reached a tentative agreement last week, but that agreement was voted down – by a 3-1 margin – by the union. Attempts to reach a new agreement have since fallen short, leading the union to give a strike notice today.Officials at RWJUH could not be reached for comment on the expected announcement. Last week, after the potential agreement was rejected, RWJUH released a statement saying it hopes to find a solution.“We are disappointed the union did not ratify the agreement reached between the union and the hospital, which both sides thought was fair,” a spokesperson said. “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.