Two separate instances of difference are notable in stories about labor negotiations ongoing with Lifespan and the United Nurses and Allied Professionals. The first is a sort of hypocrisy of rhetoric. Lifespan has spent $10 million preparing to keep its operation going in the face of a threatened strike starting July 23, and the organization has said its final offer to the union is now reduced by that amount. In response, union organizer and former RI representative Raymond Sullivan states:
“UNAP’s dedicated nurses and caregivers have no intention of negotiating with a gun to their heads,” Sullivan said. “As of now, there are no plans to resume talks until Lifespan ceases its attacks on the union’s protected rights to collectively bargain and strike.
So when the union threatens to deprive the hospitals of the workers they need to operate, that’s just fair labor negotiations, but when management says it’ll have to hire temporary employees and make the cost up in the contract, that’s “a gun to their heads.”
The second notable difference is that between Lifespan’s actions and those of public-sector management. Sullivan, for example, used to work for the National Education Association of Rhode Island, an industry in which a hard line from management looks quite different. Far from facing a reduction in management’s final offer, in public schools, the union can usually expect to get multiple years of retroactive pay if it takes that long to come to an agreement.
This turn of events can leave taxpayers with the impression that school committees aren’t so much negotiating with the unions for that long as they are waiting for some turn of events to make it possible to take from taxpayers what both “sides” want. One can hardly imagine a school committee’s taking retroactive pay off the table, let alone reducing an offer. The union rhetoric (and media coverage) would be apocalyptic, and drag the school committee members through an agonizing time.