The proposal: RWJUH, union officials debating delivery of counteroffers

As a strike by their nursing staff enters the fourth week, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital officials offered their most extensive statement to date Monday morning.

The biggest takeaway: RWJUH officials said the union representing the nurses is not bringing their offers to the membership — something union officials dispute.

In a release attributed to spokesperson Wendy Gottsegen, the hospital said a proposal presented Aug. 2, or two days before the strike date, was never shown to membership.

Hospital officials said the proposal went farther than the July 13 memorandum of agreement by the hospital and union leaders — one that ultimately was rejected by membership.

Judy Danella, the leader of the nurses for their union, United Steel Workers Local 4-200, said this counteroffer did go to the rank-and-file, because the hospital gave it to the nurses who were working that day.

The proposal was never voted on because the nurses felt it was essentially the same offer that had been presented before — and because it did not fully address staffing concerns.

“That is one of the main points,” Danella said.

The hospital also said it has offered to enter binding arbitration or participate in a federal mediation and conciliation board of inquiry — it said the union refused both offers.

Danella said the union would not accept arbitration because it was not happy with previous outcomes of arbitration.

“We lost a significant amount in 2020, so we’re not going to do arbitration again,” she said.

The two sides have not met since Aug. 16.

Gottsegen said the hospital is awaiting word from the mediators — and that staying away isn’t helping anyone.

“We have said all along that no one benefits from a strike — least of all our nurses,” she said. “We hope the union considers the impact a prolonged strike is having on our nurses and their families.

“As of Sept. 1, RWJUH nurses must pay for their health benefits through COBRA. This hardship, in addition to the loss of wages throughout the strike, is very unfortunate and has been openly communicated to the union and the striking nurses since prior to the walk-out on Aug. 4.”

Gottsegen said the hospital has been aggressively adding staffing — one of the key issues of the strike — all year.

“We understand and recognize the toll the pandemic took on our nurses and have worked aggressively to address staffing,” she said. “Despite a nationwide nursing shortage, in which New Jersey is facing 14,000 nurse vacancies, RWJUH has added 200 staff nurse positions since 2022 and has reduced its nurse vacancy rate to nearly half the national average.”

Danella said the nurses are waiting for a more complete offer.

“That’s where we’re at,” she said.