BRATTLEBORO -- Both sides in the tense, ongoing contract negotiations at the Brattleboro Retreat report that major progress has been made and a possible settlement could come at the next scheduled bargaining session.
The Retreat, and its unionized workers represented by the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5086, held an all day bargaining session on Nov. 27, and while both sides say work still needs to be done, spokesmen hope an agreement will be reached soon.
"It is fair to say we are making progress," said Jack Callaci, director of Collective Bargaining and Organizing for the union. "We have informed our members that we are making progress but there are still significant issues to resolve. There is still no agreement."
The workers' contract expired on Oct. 15.
The two sides agreed to a first extension which ran until the end of November, and then a second extension, which kept the contract in place until the end of December.
The deteriorating contract talks went public on Monday, Nov. 12, when the workers held an informational picket on the Brattleboro Common.
On Nov. 14 the Retreat announced it was eliminating 31 positions to head off what the administration said was a looming budget shortfall.
In a notice that was sent out to Retreat staff last week Callaci said progress is being made on subjects ranging from wages, medical benefits, mandatory overtime, leave of absence rights, retirement benefits and other issues.
Staffing remains the major sticking point, Callaci said in the notice.
In a telephone interview Callaci said the staff will go ahead with an additional informational picket scheduled for Friday Dec. 7.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for Dec. 10, and with the holidays approaching it could be the final session unless another extension is agreed to.
"We are going to be back at it and we could settle our differences or it could all blow up," Callaci said. "Everyone is positive but there has not been an agreement.
Retreat Vice President for Government Relations Peter Albert said he wanted to be cautious about commenting on the negotiations, but he also said the Nov. 27 talks went well.
"We appreciate all the work that has been done on these complicated and emotional issues," Albert said. "I'm hopeful people will stay with it and we'll be able to reach an agreement."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org.