Labor and Health Care Issues

Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurses Withdraw One-Day Strike Notice as They Seek Fair Agreement That Protects and Improves Patient Care


GREENFIELD, Mass. – The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, agreed on Friday to withdraw their one-day strike notice after Baystate Health requested the withdrawal in order to return to the bargaining table on February 26. Nurses agreed to bargain while hoping for progress toward a contract that must include improvements to RN staffing and patient care, along with decent health insurance.

A 24-hour nurse strike had been scheduled to start at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Baystate had threatened to lock out BFMC nurses from 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27 through 7 p.m. Friday, March 2. BFMC nurses retain the right to re-issue a new 10-day notice of a new one-day strike if necessary.

“Our community wants to see us reach a resolution that protects and improves patient care,” said RN Donna Stern, Senior Co-Chair of the BFMC RN Bargaining Committee. “We have been seeking to negotiate a fair contract all along, and we hope that the withdrawal of our strike notice gives us space to reach an agreement that benefits our patients, our nurses and our community.”

On February 8, BFMC nurses voted by 85% to authorize a potential one-day strike. Key issues:

  • Baystate refuses to improve patient care conditions
  • Baystate wants the right to make nurse staffing worse
  • Baystate wants to force its nurses to take terrible health insurance from Baystate’s own insurance company, Health New England

Why Inadequate RN Staffing is a Patient Care Problem:

  • By failing to schedule enough nurses or forcing nurses to work through our meal breaks and routinely past the end of our shifts, Baystate is making it more and more difficult for exhausted, overworked nurses to provide the best care for our patients.
  • Nurses worked, were pressured or forced to work 3,980 shifts of 12 hours or more in one year. National best practices say nurses SHOULD NOT work more than 12 hours.

Safe Patient Care Solutions

  • Nurses are seeking specific staffing improvements in specific hospital units, along with the proposal that charge nurses not be required to take a patient assignment. This is tied to a proposal that management hire the nurses it needs to staff its staffing grids and not worsen staffing by assigning even more patients to all other nurses.
  • Charge nurses need to be able to effectively coordinate care and assist other nurses. If their patient assignments are eliminated or reduced but their fellow nurses have even heavier patient assignments, the problems nurses have identified for years will worsen.

Decent Health Insurance

  • Mid-contract, BFMC management took away the only two decent health plans offered to nurses: Gold and Silver. Nurses are just asking them to bring back a decent health plan.
  • Baystate Health owns Health New England and Baystate President & CEO Dr. Mark Keroack is also CEO of the health plan. Baystate is self-insured, meaning that the health insurance the nurses get is not from an outside provider that sets the cost. Rather the cost is set by Baystate/Health New England and any additional cost to the nurses means more money for Baystate/Health New England.
  • In addition, Baystate agreed to provide Noble Hospital nurses the Silver plan when they settled in November 2017.
  • Baystate is advertising that the people of the Pioneer Valley and Springfield areas should come to them for care, while being unable to provide a healthcare to their own employees.

Baystate Profits

  • Baystate Health has the financial means to provide safe staffing and fair RN benefits and wages. It ended 2014 and 2015 with a combined $121 million in profit, according to the state. During fiscal year 2016, BFMC alone reported $2.2 million in profits.

Bargaining Background

BFMC nurses held a one-day strike on June 26, 2017 after voting by a 93% margin to authorize the strike. The nurses were preemptively locked out of the hospital by Baystate management, who kept the RNs from caring for their patients the evening before the strike. The lockout lasted for two days following the strike and involved Baystate spending $1 million to hire replacement nurses from outside the community instead of allowing BFMC nurses to care for their patients once the strike concluded.

Following the strike, Baystate gave its “best and final” to BFMC nurses on July 21. BFMC nurses voted to reject that offer on August 15. The MNA has filed more than 20 unfair labor practice charges against Baystate on behalf of BFMC nurses for, among other reasons, failing to bargain in good faith over mandatory subjects of bargaining such as nurse workload and health insurance.

BFMC nurses began negotiating for a new contract in November 2016 to replace the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2016. A federal mediator is involved in negotiations.