An open letter to the community

October 13, 2020

The union representing nurses at Backus Hospital has decided to move forward with a two-day strike, starting Tuesday morning, October 13.

This is heartbreaking. The hospital has made every effort to avoid a strike. Over the course of 23 bargaining sessions, and using federal mediators, we have continually addressed issues important to both the union and to the hospital:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Staffing
  • Additional accommodations for breastfeeding

We have worked to reach an agreement that advances our nurses and increases wages and benefits. Our offer includes:

  • Significant wage increases for all RNs over the three-year contract, amounting to 12.5% over three years
  • Additional paid time off for 82% of nurses — with no nurse losing any paid time off
  • Reducing the cost of healthcare premiums by 2%


  • We offered to retain daily overtime for nurses — paying overtime wages for hours worked over 8 in one shift, as opposed to 40 in one week.
  • We retained jobs at a time when other healthcare employers have laid off or furloughed nurses and other staff.
  • We provided staff with additional paid time off during the pandemic and other support including a special COVID response payment, housing and a colleague assistance fund to support those in financial need.

In all of these and other ways, Backus Hospital has shown that we respect our nurses, we are prepared to find common ground, and we want to reach agreement on a fair contract.

The union, unfortunately, is prepared to strike, causing an unprecedented degree of disruption during an unprecedented health crisis.

I have heard directly from nurses telling me that this is not what they want. I have heard from members of our community who are understandably concerned, especially as we are dealing with an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

I apologize for the concern that I know this is creating for our hospital, our nurses and our community. We remain firmly committed to reaching a reasonable agreement. And while I am confident that both the hospital and the union ultimately will do so, now we are focused on the important work to be prepared to care for our patients.

During this two-day period, Backus Hospital will remain open and programs and services will remain accessible to our community. We will continue to be safe, ready and prepared to care for those who rely on us.

Donna Handley
Donna Handley, RN, BSN, MA
President, Backus Hospital