By Staff

WORCESTER (CBS) – The longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history may be over. St. Vincent Hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association announced Friday night that a tentative agreement has been reached.

“We are heading back into our home to take care of our patients, what we’ve been waiting for,” nurse Marlena Pellegrino said.

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More than 700 nurses at the hospital walked out on March 8. Now, 285 days later, they’re looking forward to walking back in. This all comes at a critical time as COVID cases surge in Massachusetts and hospitals are near capacity.

“Our goal was to make sure that we care for our patients safer, and our second goal was to make sure that we all return to our previous positions before the strike and that was a big sticking point in this tentative agreement,” Pellegrino said.

If approved, striking nurses will get their jobs back and the replacement nurses who were hired to cover them will also stay on staff. In a statement, the hospital said every nurse who worked during the strike is a hero and should be celebrated.

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“The new contract will provide enhancements for patients and our team, and we are glad to finally end the strike and put our sole focus back on patient care,” said Saint Vincent Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Jackson. “We will be setting a new tone at Saint Vincent Hospital: We are one team with a common purpose. Not striking nurses versus replacement nurses. Not nurses versus management. One team united behind the principles of professionalism, excellence, accountability, and compassion.”

After two weeks of discussions with federal mediators, the agreement was reached Friday during an in-person session led by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

“After months of negotiations, I was gratified today to be with both parties as we crafted a final agreement together to end the strike,” Walsh said in a statement Friday night. “I want to thank both St. Vincent Hospital and Massachusetts Nurses Association for their dedication to getting this done and for continuing to keep our community healthy.”

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Union leaders say a ratification vote is next and then they will be back in the hospital as soon as possible. Staff