Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Photo 1

Randolph T. Holhut/Commons file photo

The grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat.

Voices / Viewpoint

‘We love and respect this hospital, and we all want to see it succeed’

At the Brattleboro Retreat, in spite of some well-publicized differences, union and management have maintained a dialogue and tried hard to appreciate the other side’s point of view

Robert Smith is the president (Unit 2) of UNAP Local 5086. Louis Josephson is the president and CEO of the Brattleboro Retreat.

Brattleboro

The ongoing challenges and sacrifices brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have tested each of us in ways that might not have been imaginable just a year ago. Yet during this unprecedented time, we have learned that adversity can inspire new approaches to solving our common problems.

We are encouraged to say that such is the case with the relationship between union and management at the Brattleboro Retreat.

To describe the Retreat’s union/management relationship over the past few years as “tense” would probably be an understatement. That said, it’s a credit to the people and parties involved that in spite of some well-publicized differences, we have maintained a dialogue and tried hard to appreciate the other side’s point of view.

We should also point out that even amidst the difficulties of the past few years, union and management have still been able to reach collective bargaining agreements, provide market-adjusted wage increases (including a major wage adjustment in 2018 that brought the Retreat in line with industry standards), and stand together successfully in the recent and continued fight to keep patients, staff, and others safe from COVID-19.

So what has changed?

For starters, as a result of several existential threats that we’ve faced together, our hospital has changed.

Yes, the cooperation of our state partners has been indispensable in stabilizing operations; but so, too, has the Retreat’s tenacious workforce. Union, non-union, and management employees have remained dogged in the pursuit of our mission, convinced of our hospital’s important place in Vermont’s system of health care.

Over the past several months, leadership on both sides of the table have committed to more frequent, more frank, and more productive discussions about the issues that concern us most — patient and employee safety, fiscal responsibility, work/life balance, and accountability at all levels of the organization.

* * *

The Retreat’s future success depends in large part on rebuilding our workforce, which was significantly depleted by the pandemic.

It was also hurt by the hospital’s reorganization of programs, services, and a two-year initiative in which we streamlined and improved the clinical and administrative processes associated with our patient admissions process.

As we seek to turn a corner and build a path forward, we do so with the common understanding that the Retreat is indeed a special place. We love and respect this hospital, and we all want to see it succeed.

It goes without saying that we want and need great employees who will help us rebuild our staff and who will, we hope, come to know and love the Retreat as we do.

* * *

This is not to say that union and management are now in full agreement on every issue affecting our workplace. Labor relations are — and should be — an ongoing, back-and-forth dialogue.

The creation of a consistent process by which union and management can openly discuss the issues faced by each side, along with the empowerment of frontline workers to have a say in decisions that directly affect them, is a huge and positive change here.

A new spirit of cooperation between union and management has now taken hold, and this is the model we believe will serve us best as we work together to solve the Retreat’s current and future challenges.

Both sides embrace this as a positive, and potentially transformative, change.

We are committed to maintaining and building on this spirit of cooperation, and to making it a permanent part of the work culture here at the Brattleboro Retreat.

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

Comments

We are currently reconfiguring our comments software. Please check back if you’d like to read or leave comments on this story. —The editors

Originally published in The Commons issue #607 (Wednesday, April 7, 2021). This story appeared on page C1.

Share this story

Links

0

Related stories

More by Robert Smith and Louis Josephson