The Brattleboro Retreat on Linden Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
The Brattleboro Retreat on Linden Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
Tuesday December 11, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Retreat, and the union representing about 500 of its workers, have reached a tentative contract agreement after months of acrimonious and tense negotiations.

The two sides reached a tentative settlement at around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday after a marathon bargaining session that started early Monday morning.

The workers at the Retreat who are represented by United Nurses and Allied Professionals will vote on the contract agreement Monday, Dec. 17.

Until the deal is finalized, neither side wanted to talk much about the details of the settlement.

But representatives from the union and from the Retreat say negotiators were able to reach an agreement early Tuesday after hashing out their differences.

"There is a signed agreement. I give the bargaining team an enormous amount of credit for their hard work, good judgment, and time and effort they put into this," said Jack Callaci, director of bargaining and organizing for UNAP. "Now it will be up to the members to make the judgment if this is acceptable to them."

Callaci said the union will host four informational meetings with the staff at the Retreat on Monday and the staff will vote by secret ballot.

Prior to this week's meeting, Callaci said the two sides were far apart on staffing issues, as well as on health insurance, retirement and pay scales.

The staff members were unhappy, Callaci said a few weeks ago, that they were being asked to put off an adequate pay raise after forgoing previous step increases while the Retreat struggled through challenging economic times.


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"Nobody ever gets everything they want in negotiations. It's my job to be there to help judge the contract but it will be up to the members to vote on it," said Callaci. "We are hopeful that it will be approved."

The announcement Tuesday that the two sides were able to settle the contract dispute comes after the union held a series of public informational pickets and the Retreat announced that it was eliminating 31 positions and a series of programs at the psychiatric hospital.

The last contract expired on Oct. 15 and two sides have agreed to a series of extensions to prevent a strike while the negotiations continued.

After a few unsuccessful bargaining sessions there was a meeting held on Nov. 27 where major disagreements were able to be worked out. Both sides were determined to reach a settlement at this week's meeting.

"I think was important enough, and the two sides were close enough, that they wanted to stay with it and work this out," said Brattleboro Retreat Senior Vice President of Government Relations Peter Albert.

"This is an important step. Both sides were able to work through the emotional and complicated issues to develop a plan that will allow us to move forward, and take this step together."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com.