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St. Luke’s nurses rally for labor deal in New Bedford

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Courtesy Rafael Pizarro
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Lacey and Kathryn, two St. Luke's registered nurses, rallied in New Bedford on Thursday.

Nurses from New Bedford’s St. Luke’s Hospital rallied on Thursday in support of their effort to finalize a labor deal with Southcoast Health, which owns the hospital.

The nurses unionized in 2018, but the two sides have yet to sign an agreement amid lengthy negotiations.

But a deal may finally be within reach, according to Lisa Lemieux, President of the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council. She said both sides agree on boosting wages and staffing levels, though some details still need ironing out.

Thursday’s rally aimed at keeping up momentum toward an agreement, she said, adding that low pay has pushed some local nurses to seek work elsewhere.

“There has been a constant flow of nurses leaving New Bedford and the Fall River area, because they can simply go down the street — right up 24 — and make more money,” said Lemieux. “It's important to me that workers can live and work in the communities that they live in. I don't want great nurses going down the street to work. I want them here in New Bedford, taking care of our community.”

Lemieux said both sides were working to avoid a strike at all costs, adding that wrapping up the negotiations would allow the nurses to turn their attention toward work. “If this contract is done, then they can focus on patient care.”

Southcoast Health did not respond to CAI’s request for comment.