Union files complaint against UMass Memorial after some nurses told to work on Christmas

Unionized nurses have filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging that UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester is breaching its contract and violating federal labor law by requiring some nurses to work on Christmas.

Between 10 and 20 nurses were told in recent days that they will be needed on Christmas even though they worked on Thanksgiving and are scheduled to work New Year’s Day, said David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses at the hospital and filed the complaint. Under their contract with UMass Memorial, he said, nurses are not required to work on two consecutive holidays.

“It’s unconscionable,” Schildmeier said. “They’ve made plans with their families.”

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Rob Brogna, a spokesman for UMass Memorial, said the contract gives hospital officials the right to assign nurses to work on a holiday if the patient safety requires it. He said only five nurses received a notice to report to the hospital on Christmas, though all may not be needed.

“UMass Memorial Medical Center and the MNA have always understood that our primary obligation is for the proper care of our patients,” Brogna said. “Over the past month, the medical center has experienced a significant increase in patients seeking care.... We would not assign this handful of nurses to work on Christmas unless we had to, and we’re doing everything we can to seek volunteers and per diems so that nurses can enjoy the holidays with their families.”