AUSTIN (KXAN) — After some nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin went on strike Tuesday “to protest management’s resistance to bargain in good faith,” nurses were allowed back at work Saturday morning.
Though the strike was one day, the hospital said it did not allow participating nurses to return until Saturday, July 1 because of the required length of contracts for staff brought in to fill the gaps. Nurses called it a “union-busting tactic.”
“It’s really frustrating,” said Taylor Critendon, an intensive care nurse. “We spend so much time in this hospital, we have spent so much time providing care for the patients,” she continued.
Dozens of nurses gathered Saturday morning in a group in front of Ascension Seton, sang the famous union anthem “Solidarity Forever” and marched towards the hospital doors. Some nurses were concerned that security staff would block them from entering again, but they were greeted with smiles and welcomed back into the hospital, nurses said.
Nurses say they held the strike to protest hospital management’s resistance to bargaining with registered nurses for union contracts that would help alleviate staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, according to National Nurses United.
“We had a picket to try to bring awareness to our concerns, our patient safety and retaining the new nurses that we get and retaining the nurses that we already have,” said nurse Kristine Kittelson.
“Union nurses at Ascension Seton are so thankful to the Austin community for coming out in record-breaking heat to support our efforts for improved patient care conditions,” said Natasha Gosek, RN in the neonatal intensive care unit. “We have heard from countless hospital staff, patients, and neighbors who understand that safe staffing and improved nurse retention are commonsense solutions our community needs and Ascension can afford to provide.”
A spokesperson for Ascension said in-part:
We look forward to welcoming our registered nurses back to their units on Saturday, July 1, once our contractual obligation has been fulfilled for our replacement staff. We have received many positive comments from our physicians, patients and families on the competency and expertise of our replacement nurses, and we are grateful to them for their efforts.
Notwithstanding this disheartening strike, we will continue to negotiate in good faith to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on an initial contract that respects the human dignity and rights of all. We look forward to returning the focus to resolving issues at the bargaining table and reaching agreement on a fair and reasonable collective bargaining agreement for our registered nurses.