Norwich CT July 13 2011 — Members of the union representing security guards and other support staff at The William W. Backus Hospital picketed along Washington Street this morning and planned to do so again this afternoon to protest what they say is the hospital’s failure to bargain in good faith toward a contract agreement and its efforts to contract out security services to a private firm.
The 38-member local of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, which formed about a year ago, began meeting with the hospital in contract negotiations in January, and should have been able to reach an agreement by now, said Guy Thomas, director at large of the union.
“They are not negotiating our proposals, they are refusing to discuss them,” Thomas said, as eight members of the union walked along the sidewalk in front of the hospital carrying signs that read, “No job protection for security,” “Security not taken seriously,” and other slogans. “We are hoping this picket will bring this issue to the public’s attention.”
Thomas said two weeks ago the union filed unfair labor practice charges about the contract negotiations with the National Labor Relations Board. The last negotiating session took place June 23, and sessions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, he said.
Jeno O’Reilly, president of the union, said the union was formed after security guards asked for more training to avoid injuries, and the hospital did not provide it. He and other guards, he said, also received assurances from hospital President David Whitehead that the hospital would not subcontract out their services, but recently has brought in representatives from private security companies.
“They are just playing hardball,” he said, adding that he believes the hospital is trying to use the contract talks with the security guards union to show the recently formed nurses’ union that it is a tough negotiator. “They are trying to use us as a whipping boy.”
Keith Fontaine, vice president of corporate communications at Backus, said the security guards’ criticisms are unfounded.
“We have held 11 negotiating sessions, and five more are scheduled,” he said. “We continue to bargain in good faith.
“We find today’s activities to be an unfortunate and unnecessary display,” he added.
He declined to discuss the issues raised by the union about subcontracting, but did say that the hospital does intend to reach a contract agreement with the guards.
“We’re going to talk about bargaining at the bargaining table,” he said.