Nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford ratified their first union contract on Friday, bringing an end to a three-year dispute over working conditions and wages.
For much of the pandemic, nurses at St. Luke’s, the city’s largest employer, earned less than their peers at nearby hospitals, according to the union. The Massachusetts Nurses Association reported last year that nurses with 15 years of experience earned an average of $42 an hour at St. Luke’s — about $10 less per hour than nurses at unionized hospitals in nearby Plymouth, Taunton and Cape Cod.
St. Luke’s also serves an especially vulnerable population. New Bedford is the least vaccinated city in Massachusetts, and the Omicron variant brought a record-breaking surge of patients into St. Luke’s ten months after a vaccine that largely prevents severe cases became publicly available.