RWJ University Hospital nurses continue to strike as new contract agreement is considered
Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are still at the picket line after their union has reached a tentative contract agreement with the hospital. A memorandum of agreement was signed on Friday; however, nurses say they will continue their strike and demand safe staffing standards until a contract is signed.
"I wake up to a text from my colleague every morning. She tells me how many days it’s been. And I think it’s 123 days today," said Judy Danella, president of United Steel Workers 4-200, the union that represents the nurses. "It's been through the heat, through the snow."
Nurses have spent more than 120 days on the picket line, demanding safer staffing standards.
Among those protesting is Louise Gurgui, who has been a nurse at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for 40 years. She stands in solidarity with her colleagues.
"I’m very fortunate, I work in the operating room. We already have state- and federally-mandated ratios where I will only have to take care of one patient at a time. I know how important that is," said Gurgui. "I know there are other states that change that. Nurses sometimes have to go between two patients. It’s just not safe."
From what they’ve seen so far, nurses continuing their demonstration say the agreement would give them better working conditions. However, they still question what the transition back to work will be like.
"We lost our health benefits. Would we get our health benefits right back? What would happen with our vacation time? There’s a lot of unanswered questions," said Danella. "Some people have taken travel jobs. Some are out of the country with sick family members. All of those questions need to be answered."
According to a statement from the hospital, the agreement will be presented to nurses at informational meetings over the next few days. They are encouraged to attend prior to the ratification of the agreement.
"We’ll see what it says and whenever our members have their questions answered and we’re satisfied. That’s when we will hold a vote. And if it means we don’t go back to work until January, so be it," said Gurgui.