Northern Light Health Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth. Credit: Bill Trotter

Technicians at an Ellsworth hospital have voted to authorize going on strike, according to their union.

The Maine State Nurses Association, which represents technicians and registered nurses at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital, has been trying to negotiate contracts with the hospital for several months. Registered nurses have been in contract negotiations with hospital administrators since last May while the technicians have been trying to negotiate their first contract with the hospital for more than two years, since November 2017.

The technicians decided this week to give the union a green light to call a strike if there is a continued lack of progress through ongoing negotiations, the union said Thursday. Workers in the hospital’s cardio pulmonary, radiology, laboratory and operating room departments say the sticking points pertain to patient care, secure benefits and fair compensation.

“Just like the nurses, our first concern is patient care. We formed our union over two years ago to advocate for better staffing and safer conditions in the hospital,” Cynthia Grindal, a medical lab technician at the hospital, said in a statement released by the union.

In a statement, a Maine Coast spokeswoman said the hospital will continue to provide “high-quality care” for its patients if the technicians decide to walk off the job.

“In the event of a strike, we will work with a national staffing company to bring in well qualified replacement staff to ensure there is no disruption,” Kelley Columber, the hospital’s director of communications, said Thursday. “We look forward to coming to an agreement that recognizes these employees’ important role and their contributions to our hospital.”

The technicians and union have not set a date for a possible strike.

The Maine State Employees Association is the largest union in Maine for registered nurses. It is affiliated with the National Nurses Organizing Committee and National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S.

The union also represents nurses at Calais Regional Hospital, who also are trying to negotiate a contract with their employer. The nurses there voted last September to authorize the union to call a strike, but so far have agreed to keep working while negotiations continue.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....