2010 News

Morton Employees Plan to Picket Hospital Event

03.04.2010

By Gerry Tuoti
Staff writer
Posted Mar 03, 2010 @ 11:18 PM

Taunton - With contract negotiations between Morton Hospital’s administrators and nurses union at an apparent stalemate, the nurses plan to distribute leaflets outside of this evening’s Taste of Taunton, an annual event held to raise money for the Morton Hospital Auxiliary.

“We are taking the steps we feel are necessary to get our message out and hope the hospital will see this is a responsible and fair settlement we are asking for,” said nurse Joyce Wiliness, head of the local bargaining unit.

She said the nurses have also informed Morton’s administration that they plan to hold informational picketing outside the hospital on March 17.

The nurses and health professionals list mandatory overtime and the management’s plan to overhaul the current pension system as the primary roadblocks on the negotiating table.

The hospital has said that during the current negotiations, it is making every effort to be fair to its staff while addressing challenging financial concerns. Administrators said they must consider the long-term viability of the hospital when addressing issues such as employee benefits and compensation.

“The administration of Morton Hospital reiterates its position to provide safe patient care, and we value all our employees,” Cara Hart, Morton’s vice president of administrative services, told the Taunton Daily Gazette in a Feb. 17 interview.

Hart could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Morton Hospital issued a written statement about the union’s statements.

“The Hospital develops staffing plans based on several factors such as patient census, patient acuity, experience level of professional staff, and historical data, but most importantly, we determine staffing based on the needs of patients,” the statement says.

The nurses and health professionals are currently operating under an old contract which has been extended to March 8.

“The mandatory overtime issue is a matter of safety and patient care,” Wilkins said. “Our goal is to provide maximum care to patients, and mandatory overtime does not provide for that.”

It can be dangerous to have a nurse working 16 hours straight to care for patients, Wilkins said.

“Staffing patterns should be such that mandatory overtime is not a necessary thing,” she said.

Morton Hospital, which has an operating budget of $130 million, posted an accounting surplus of $5.1 million last year and is projected to have a $6.8 million surplus this year. That sum, the administration said, is small considering the need to continuously invest in facilities, equipment and infrastructure.

The two sides met with a federal mediator on Tuesday, but failed to come to a resolution, Wilkins said.

She said that there are no plans for a strike at this time.

“We want to have a good relationship with our employer, but the community and the patients are the most important to us,” Wilkins said. “At the end of the day, when our time at work is done, we want to have what we need to live on.”

If the impasse continues, Wilkins said “it’s hard to say” what the union’s next steps will be.

“There has been no decision at this time as to what our actions will be in the future,” she said.

Contact Gerry Tuoti at gtuoti@tauntongazette.com.

FPO