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Maine Med nurses picket amid first union contract negotiations

MaineMed nurses.jpg
Patty Wight
/
Maine Public
Nurses demonstrate outside Maine Medical Center in Portland as they negotiate their first contract.

Dozens of unionized nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland picketed Wednesday morning outside the hospital amid contract negotiations that have gone on for eight months.

Jonica Frank, a registered nurse who works in the operating room, says a major sticking point is staffing ratios. She says the workload that nurses have shouldered in recent years is unsustainable and unsafe.

"We leave here exhausted at night and in the morning. Because, you know, we try so hard. We've gone without breaks," she says.

nurse rally.jpg
Patty Wight
/
Maine Public
Nurses negotiating for their first contract at Maine Medical Center in Portland held a demonstration on Wednesday, April 27.

Registered nurse Jason Huchel says the union also wants the hospital to offer better pay to attract permanent employees instead of temporary ones.

"This contract is all about retention. Getting people to want to work for Maine Medical Center, but not only that, to stay at Maine Medical Center," Huchel says.

The president of the Maine Senate, Troy Jackson, and Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, along with 55 other lawmakers, nearly all Democrats, wrote a letter urging Maine Medical Center's president and board to negotiate a "fair contract in a timely manner."

Maine Medical Center issued a statement from chief nursing officer Devin Carr, who says its nurses are among the best in the nation and that hospital officials are bargaining in good faith on a schedule that has been agreed to by both parties.