About 100 members of the striking Massachusetts Nurses Association made a symbolic effort to return to work at the Tufts Medical Center Thursday, but were rebuffed by security as the first nurses strike against a Boston hospital since 1986 turned into lockout expected to last into Monday.
The nurses union launched a one-day strike around 7 a.m. Wednesday, setting up a picket line that drew hundreds of union members along with political figures to the sidewwalk outside the hospital on Washington Street in Boston’s Chintatown section.
The union formally ended the strike at 7 a.m. Thursday and a few dozen of the 1,200 striking nurses crossed Washington Street chanting “we want to work” as they tried to enter the hospital. But they were turned away by security personnel in a low-key confrontation that ended with nurses chanting, “shane on you!” as they resumed walking the picket line.
Hospital adminstrators said the hospital has been functioning smoothly and without interruptions to patient care since the strike began. And, managers said in a statement, the move by union nurses to return to work Thursday is a publicity stunt staged to incite media coverage.
The hospital said it was required to hire the replacement nurses for five days and had already notified the union that if they went on strike, the hospital would use the replacements until Monday.
“Part of the MNA playbook is staging a dramatic scene the morning after a strike. This is a stunt orchestrated for the media,’’ Rhonda Mann, hospital spokeswoman said in a statement. “If the MNA was so concerned about our nurses returning to the bedside, it should never have taken them out on strike and away from their patients.”
The strike came after about 15 months of talks failed to produce a new contract for nurses at Tufts, a 415-bed teaching hospital that treats children and adults. The union says it is seeking increases in pay and staffing levels, but both sides deadlocked over another key issue: retirement benefits.