NEW BEDFORD — Southcoast Health is taking a stance against the efforts of nurses at St. Luke's Hospital to form a union.

Over a dozen nurses representing the newly formed group St. Luke's United marched to Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith Hovan's office on Friday morning, informing him of their intention to unionize. The group asked that Hovan and hospital administration respect their "right to form a union by remaining neutral as nurses prepare to vote in the union election."

In a statement released on Saturday, Southcoast Health made it clear that the organization is not supportive of the effort to unionize, saying "We do not believe unionization of nurses at St. Luke's Hospital is in the best interest of our nurses or our patients."

Meanwhile, in a written release, the Massachusetts Nurses Association claims that Southcoast Health has hired a law firm that is a "notorious" union-buster. MNA claims representatives of The Burke Group began holding "information" meetings with nurses at St. Luke's Hospital in September. MNA says The Burke Group is known internationally for "running aggressive intimidation campaigns against employees seeking to form a union."

Below is the complete statement from Southcoast Health on the announcement by nurses at St. Luke's Hospital that efforts to unionize are underway:

Southcoast Health deeply respects our nurses for their skills, expertise and the compassionate care they provide our patients. We do not believe unionization of nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital is in the best interest of our nurses or our patients.  We have a long proven history of working collaboratively and effectively as a team. Separating ourselves into groups with competing interests is never an effective solution, and only seeks to divide us instead of unite us. Southcoast Health is one team of 7,500 caring and dedicated individuals, who come together in order to always do what is best for our patients and have a positive impact on their quality of life. Together, as one Southcoast Health, is when we are our strongest, and when our patients whom we all serve are the ultimate winners.

— Patricia Giramma, spokesperson for Southcoast Health