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UP nurses now back to work after strike

Oct 9, 2017

UPDATE: Tuesday, 10/10/17

All regular nursing staff at UPHS-Marquette can now return to work. 

Victor Harrington, Regional Director of Marketing and Business Development at UPHS, said the hospital hired replacement nurses to staff the hospital during last week's 48-hour (Thursday - Friday) nurse strike. Harrington said the staffing agency that provided replacement nurses required a five day minimum contract to work. That contract ended after Monday. 

Harrington says the hospital made "numerous attempts" to alert the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), and regular staff nurses of the five day contract for replacement nurses, meaning that the hospital would possibly be fully staffed on those days, and regular staff nurses would not be needed to work at the hospital. 

Harrington says the hospital is "ready to get back to the bargaining table," and hopes to reach a contract agreement with the regular staff nurses soon. The 48-hour strike was initiated over the hospitals "refusal" to guarentee minimum nurse staffing levels, according to a MNA press release Saturday. 

Monday, 10/9/17

Nurses who were on strike at a U.P. hospital last week still haven’t been able to return to work – even though they’ve tried to.

Union organizers told hospital officials the strike would only last 48 hours and end the morning of Saturday, October 7. When it did, nurses attempted to show up for their work shifts Saturday morning, but some were turned away at the hospital doors.

Greg Kerwin is a registered nurse in the emergency room at UPHS-Marquette. He says not only was he turned away and asked to leave the hospital property on Saturday; but the same thing happened Monday.

“Some of us actually showed up to the hospital again, in our scrubs. And again we were turned away,” Kerwin said.

According to the Michigan Nurses Association, the strike was called to draw attention to the hospital administration’s “refusal to guarantee minimum nurse staffing levels at all times to protect patient safety.”

Kerwin says he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to his job.

“I’ve been a nurse for an awful long time. I love nursing.” Kerwin said. “I’m proud that I take care of people in some very difficult times. I just want to keep doing it.”

The hospital is reportedly using replacement nurses instead of local employees for the time being.

UPHS-Marquette officials did not respond to several requests for comment on this story.