From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
May 2010 Edition
Carrying signs that read, “Negotiate Don’t Dictate,” “Safe Staffing Now,” and “Be Fair to Those Who Care,” more than 200 registered nurses at Quincy Medical Center conducted an informational picket outside the entrance to the facility on April 13.
RNs picketed after the MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against the hospital for their appalling decision to cease negotiations for a new contract and to declare impasse after only six sessions. Citing the hospital’s financial instability, QMC management is demanding that the nurses cut their wages by 3 percent, increase their health insurance by 5 percent, and freeze their pension along with other benefit cuts—all of which were implemented on April 4.
“We are outraged by management’s decision to declare impasse,” said Paula Ryan, an RN and chair of the MNA bargaining unit at Quincy. “This move is unprecedented and we also believe it is illegal. Negotiating is meant to be a good faith process of reaching a fair settlement that protects the hospital and nurses alike.”
|Senator Michael Morrissey joined (from left) MNA Vice President Karen Coughlin, MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams, and QMC Chair Paula Ryan at the picket at Quincy Medical Center on April 13.|
“They are demanding that nurses make significant sacrifices, without providing us the opportunity to negotiate over those changes,” added Ryan. “For management, it is ‘take it or leave it.’ They are stomping on our legal rights and we will not be bullied, we will not be intimidated.”
For their part, the nurses have stated they could agree to some concessions, providing the hospital reciprocates by agreeing to make the staffing improvements that were promised in the last round of contract negotiations, and that the concessions/cuts “sunset” (i.e., be automatically restored) at the end of the new contract. The nurses are also seeking a non-voting seat on the hospital’s board of trustees, which will allow them to provide input into the hospital’s “transformation” plan.
“The nurses are fully aware of the hospital’s financial situation, and we are not opposed to making sacrifices. We have done this before in fact,” said Ryan. “However, we also have a greater responsibility to our patients and we cannot accept a contract that fails to ensure that we have the staff and resources to keep our patients safe. We all have a stake in supporting this hospital, but we cannot do so at the expense of our patients.”
Negotiations for a new contract began on Feb. 18 with six sessions held so far. The contract expired on March 31.
The MNA charge against the hospital contends that the hospital’s declaration of impasse was premature, coming only after six bargaining sessions—only one of which was with a federal mediator. Both parties called in the mediator for the March 24 session to help the parties move the process forward.
Marching with the QMC nurses were their colleagues from a number of MNA local bargaining units, including nurses from Cambridge Health Alliance, Caritas Norwood Hospital, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Unit 7, Jordan Hospital, Brockton Hospital, Faulkner Hospital, Tufts Medical Center and Boston Medical Center. The nurses also had the support of the local labor community, including the AFL-CIO’s president, Robert Haynes; the AFL-CIO’s secretary, James Howard; Robert Rizzi, president of the Norfolk County Central Labor Council; James Pinkham, president of the Plymouth/Bristol County Central Labor Council; and members from NEMSA. Also offering their support at the picket were members from Teamsters Local 25, Local 103 IBEW, IAM Local 264 Machinists, Local 17 Sheet Metal Workers, Local 2222 IBEW, Laborers Local 133, Boston Mailers Local 1 and Laborers Local 367.
Public officials in attendance included State Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy), Quincy School Committee member Elaine Dwyer, former Quincy City Council member Marty Aikes and, candidate for state representative Tackey Chan.