CHA Slammed Again by State Labor Division, This Time for Violating Rights of Whidden Hospital RNs
State Orders Hospital to Cease Charging Nurses for Parking and to Reimburse all Parking Fees Paid Since 2008
Ruling Follows a Recent Labor Division Complaint Against CHA for Violating the Rights of Cambridge Hospital Nurses for Once Again Failing to Negotiate and Unilaterally Slashing Benefits
CAMBRIDGE, MA – As nurses at Cambridge Hospital marched in front of their hospital protesting unfair labor practices by their employer, Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), the state Division of Labor Relations this week issued a ruling on a 2008 violation of labor law by CHA, this one involving registered nurses at CHA’s Whidden Hospital campus in Everett, Mass.
The hearing officer in the case ruled this week that Cambridge Health Alliance once again engaged in bad faith bargaining when it unilaterally imposed a parking fee for nurses working at the hospital, without giving the nurses’ union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the opportunity to bargain over the issue as part of its then ongoing contract negotiation. Prior to that time, the hospital didn’t charge nurses for parking. The ruling orders the hospital to immediately cease charging the nurses for parking, to post a public notice informing the employees of its violation, to begin negotiations with the MNA over the issue, and to reimburse all nurses for what they have paid for parking since 2008 plus interest.
“We are thrilled with this ruling as it holds Cambridge Health Alliance accountable for their blatant and arrogant disregard for the labor relations process, “said Gail Middleton, chair of the Whidden Hospital local bargaining unit of the MNA. “While our nurses will be happy to be reimbursed for the illegally imposed parking fees, the larger issue at stake here is the need for all of us, management and employees alike, to follow the rules and obey the law.”
In January 2008, the hospital issued a notice to employees that it was going to impose a parking fee at two parking sites of $6 and $3 per week respectively for the nurses. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which was engaged in negotiations for a new contract at the time, informed the hospital that the imposition of parking fees was a mandatory subject for collective bargaining and they were prohibited from imposing the fees without first negotiating the change as part of the overall contract negotiation. The hospital refused, and the MNA filed a charge of prohibitive labor practice, which was sustained by the State Labor Division of Labor Relations, which resulted in the ruling ordered this week.
While the Whidden case has been settled, there is a similar complaint pending against CHA at Cambridge Hospital for management’s violation of state labor law in their effort to slash nurses’ retiree health benefit and deprive them of their rights.
In April, the hospital requested to reopen the contract with nurses at Cambridge Hospital, and talks began in May. After holding only five meetings, the hospital ceased negotiations on June 24, declared an impasse, and announced they were moving forward with their last, best and final offer, which included the cut to the retiree health benefit.
State Labor Division Rules that Cambridge Health Alliance Committed an Unfair Labor Practice P/2
On July 12 the State Division of Labor Relations issued a formal complaint against the Cambridge Health Alliance, stating that the employer “…failed to bargain in good faith…and interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights…”
To protest the effort, hundreds of nurses picketed outside the hospital on July 22. The nurses at Cambridge Hospital view the Whidden Hospital ruling as further vindication of their outrage and their position, which is that the hospital management needs to be held accountable for its deplorable behavior and treatment of its nurses.
“What we are seeing is a pattern of disrespect for labor law by an administration that seems determined to take what it wants from its nurses and other employees, no matter what,” said Betty Kaloustian, chair of the MNA bargaining unit at Cambridge Hospital. “The Whidden ruling gives us great hope that CHA and Dennis Keefe will be held accountable in our case as well.”
The nurses see the retiree health benefit as a key to retaining nursing staff at Cambridge Hospital who could have made more money working at nearby private sector hospitals. For many of the nurses, particularly those closest to retirement, the cut could have a devastating impact on the cost of their health care and could threaten their retirement security. Many of these nurses are not eligible for Medicare, and are solely dependent on this benefit for their health care in their senior years.
The Cambridge Hospital nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are committed to reaching a fair resolution to their contract and to this issue and are using the picket to appeal to the community for support in convincing the Board of Trustees to require CHA administration to obey the law, return to the bargaining table, and to work to restore a respectful and productive relationship with the nurses.