Union workers locked out of RIH until Friday afternoon

By Chloe Leshner

Email: cleshner@abc6.com

Twitter: @ChloeLeshner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Nurses and health workers are technically finished with their 3 day strike, but they’re not able to return to work until Friday at 3:00 p.m.

“They chose to lock us out for a fourth day and I feel it’s a bullying tactic,” says Carol Kut, a breast imaging technician.

The hospital says it’s because they had no choice but to agree to a 4 day contract with Huffmaster, the company that brought in the temporary workers to ensure they’d have coverage.

"Lifespan could have gone with another contracting company that would’ve offered a minimum number of days. They didn’t have to go with Huffmaster, it was their choice," says Elizabeth Aquino, a nurse.

ABC6 News reached out to Huffmaster several times to get specifics on the contract, but they haven’t returned our requests.

At a price tag of more than $10 million, a Lifespan representative says it’s impossible to compare if what the temporary workers are being paid is on par with what the union workers make.

Some imaging techs are concerned their temporary counterparts are being paid more to do a fraction of the work.

"From what we hear they are making about $60 an hour. I’ve been here 23 years and I don’t make $60 an hour," says Kut.

The union is informing its members that they can file for unemployment benefits for Friday.

The Department of Labor says they’re expecting an influx of claims but it’s impossible for them to say if the union workers will get unemployment benefits because several deciding factors depend on the individual.

Ultimately these workers will be back on the floor Friday evening, something many say will be bittersweet.

"It will be a relief but at the same time everything is still up in the air because they’re still playing hard ball," says Sarah Richardson, a nurse.

There’s no set time for negotiations to start up again.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2018