Union representing nurses to divest from NEFCU credit union

WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) The union representing UVM nurses says it will divest from the New England Federal Credit Union to put pressure on the UVM Medical Center board, which includes two members that also sit on the credit union's board.

Officials from AFT Vermont, the parent union of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, made the announcement Thursday at the NEFCU in Williston. It's the latest move to put pressure on the hospital leading into ongoing contract negotiations next week.

Nurses went on strike for two days last month over wages, costing the hospital millions of dollars to bring in temporary nurses.

Union officials say they wrote to all of the medical center board members for a meeting, but that they declined. AFT Vermont has about 5,000 members and their dues are kept at the credit union.

"I hope it brings an awakening to the board of trustees to say, 'You need to be accountable. You need to do your jobs and to actually support a budget that is conducive to safe patient care,'" said Laurie Aunchman with the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

John Dwyer Jr. is New England Federal Credit Union’s CEO and a member of the UVMMC board of trustees. Kathleen Emery-Ginn also serves on both boards.

In a statement Thursday, UVM Medical Center officials said, "Our goal from the outset of negotiations with the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals has remained the same: to address the concerns nurses have raised while also balancing our commitment to providing high quality, affordable health care in our community. We have done this by doubling our wage offer, agreeing to substantial increases for nurses in different roles, responding to staffing concerns, and enhancing benefits instead of asking for concessions, as is common in many labor negotiations around the country."

"I think it's very important to recognize that the board is listening to what's going on. We are hearing from people. We are -- as a board of trustees role -- is to pass those that information on to the leadership of the hospital and we are doing that," said NEFCU's John Dwyer.

Higher wages remain the major sticking point in reaching a new contract. The union wants a 23 percent increase over three years and the hospital countered with 13 percent -- both include step increases.

The next bargaining session for the hospital and nurses is set for August 13 and 14.