Nurses, health technicians, skilled trades and other hospital staff protested with community leaders outside Rhode Island Hospital today. The crowd then marched to Lifespan’s corporate headquarters for a rally there. Speakers at the rally called on Rhode Island hospital and its owner, the Lifespan Corporation, to put an end to policies that punish workers for getting sick and that put patients’ health at risk.
Allied health, skilled trades and all non-nursing workers at Rhode Island Hospital are represented by Teamsters Local 251 in East Providence. All nurses at Rhode Island Hospital are represented by United Nurses & Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5098.
“We represent health technicians, dietary, skilled trade, maintenance and many other workers at Rhode Island Hospital,” said Matthew Taibi, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 251. “Instead of bargaining in good faith with its union employees, as it is required to do by law, the hospital unilaterally changed its policies so that workers are punished for being sick for consecutive days or on weekends. It also punishes part-time workers by disciplining them more readily than full-time workers. Even those who have to stay home with a sick child could be punished.”
“These punitive policies put pressure on workers to come to work while sick,” Taibi continued. “If it means you might lose your job, you’re not going to stay home. Why would a hospital – with a mission to protect patients’ health – enact policies that can lead to patients contracting illnesses in the hospital?”
“When you consider that more than 100,000 patients nationwide die every year from hospital-acquired illnesses, it’s unconscionable for Lifespan’s management at Rhode Island Hospital to force sick workers to interact with ill and vulnerable patients,” said Sean O’Brien, Teamsters International Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Joint Council 10 in New England.
The 4,300 nurses, allied health staff and skilled trades workers at Rhode Island Hospital are asking hospital management to end these punitive policies that impact direct patient care, and in the future, to discuss sick leave policies with them in good faith, so that workers can have a say and inform management whether new policies could endanger patients.
“I work here because I love helping people,” said Colleen Reid, a 33-year employee of Rhode Island Hospital. “If I’m sick, I don’t want to expose patients or my co-workers, and risk passing something on to them.”