The union representing nurses at Backus Hospital says contract negotiations are painfully slow and put parent company Hartford HealthCare on notice Friday that a brief strike is possible in 10 days.

a sign on the side of the street: Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich have warned of a possible two-day strike.

© Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/TNS
Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich have warned of a possible two-day strike.

The two sides have been in contract talks since June, according to an internal communication from the Backus Federation of Nurses, part of AFT Connecticut, which is bargaining on behalf of more than 400 nurses. Nurses at the Norwich hospital recently authorized a two-day strike and the notice is an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on hospital officials.

The union cited differences over personal protective equipment, pay and health insurance. It said the hospital insists it has the right to change insurance plans at any time without further negotiations and called it “clearly unacceptable.”

The nurses dispute statements by the hospital that personal protective equipment is always available. Nurses cope with shortages on every shift, the union said.

“The reuse and extended use of PPE is a work hazard and an infection control disaster in the making,” the union said.

Donna Handley, president of the hospital, said Backus will remain open if nurses walk off their job. “We are safe and we are prepared to care for you,” she said in a video.

“I am deeply, deeply disappointed in the nurses’ notification of a two-day strike,” Handey said. “I believe in my heart that we have done everything to avoid a strike.”

The hospital has met 19 times with the union and will “work around the clock to reach an agreement,” she said.

Parent company Hartford HealthCare said personal protective equipment “is — and has been — available to staff and patients 100% of the time.”

“We need to be