Noteworthy news from the negotiating table
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
April 2011 Edition
Baystate VNA wants sweet fruit for itself, leaves bitter fruit for RNs
Early on in negotiations at Baystate VNA, management claimed that there was a “lot of low hanging fruit” that could easily be agreed on. It is clear now that there is little low hanging fruit. The MNA nurses at Baystate VNA have compromised significantly on their proposals, but management has not reciprocated.
Management’s so-called “wage proposal”
During recent negotiations, management presented yet another economic proposal that involved “an option” in the first year. Specifically, nurses could take a 1.5 percent across-the-board increase but NO step advance for the year … or they could take a 1 percent across-the-board increase and the scheduled step advance for the year. In the second year offered “whatever the rest of the house gets.” The nurses countered by reducing their wage proposal to a yearly 3 percent across-the-board increase for three years, while continuing the steps. Rather than taking the counter and formulating a response, management said, “If you will stick with that proposal we will not be reaching an agreement.”
Joint Commission meeting requested
The Joint Commission is scheduled to review the accreditation status of Baystate VNA this year. As is their right, the nurses have formally requested a meeting with TJC where they can offer their opinions about the agency and the level of care delivered.
Members at NHC cast unanimous vote to authorize informational picketing
In late March, members unanimously voted in favor of authorizing informational picketing at Northeast Healthcare Corp.’s three hospitals. As a result, the NHC bargaining unit is now entirely prepared to conduct informational picketing should the progress of their current negotiations warrant such a job action.
Key issues still outstanding
Wages: Management still wants to cut nurses’ steps in half. For all nurses below the top step, the hospital wants a two-year contract that would reduce full step increases to half step increases. Meanwhile, nurses at the top would receive a “one-time 2 percent lump sum payment.” The same would occur in year two, with the exception being that nurses at the top would receive a 2 percent increase.
Pension: Management still wants nurses to pay to belong to the pension plan. If they are part of the “Legacy Beverly or Addison Pension Plans,” the hospital wants them to contribute 3.5 percent (approximately $80 per week) out-of-pocket for that plan. Currently, they do not need to contribute anything.
Successor language, RIF: Management still has not agreed to the MNA’s successor language and RIF proposals, both of which are widely supported by nurses who are concerned by widespread reports that the hospital system is looking for a new owner.
RNs at Berkshire Medical Center reject contract proposal
RNs at Berkshire Medical Center recently rejected a three-year contract proposal just a few weeks after a strike authorization vote at the facility was postponed. MNA nurse leaders at the hospital said the tentative agreement reached by union and management negotiators was an overwhelming failure with the rank-and-file, and that they do not see eye-to-eye with BMC representative Michael Leary who declared this “a very strong contract offer.”
The issue of salary for BMC nurses who work three 12-hour shifts each week has long been a sticking point in these negotiations. Under their current contract, these nurses receive premium pay for the extra four hours not included in the schedule. BMC wants to phase out that pay, which is equivalent to a salary cut.
Cooley-Dickinson RNs want “no harm to any member”
Management at Cooley-Dickinson Hospital has long had a major proposal on the table aimed at establishing an “earned time program” for MNA nurse members. From the start of negotiations, union leaders told management that they would not accept a plan that in any way would cut or diminish members’ current benefits.
Management has modified their proposal a few times since, but each time union leaders reviewed the latest details they informed management that there were still segments of the proposal that harmed members and they presented a counter proposal that totally protects their current benefits and causes NO harm to any member.
Management also said they will soon be offering a wage proposal, and then added that the hospital budget for the current fiscal year shows no increase in wages. This would come on top of the recent “reductions in force” that have increased nurses’ workloads, stress levels and daily pressures faced.
Cape Cod Hospital
The MNA negotiation committee and the management team at Cape Cod Hospital (CCH) negotiated on March 23 for four hours. During this session, CCH restated its on-the-record proposal regarding wages—the same proposal that union members received from management in the mail even before it presented the proposal to the MNA negotiating committee.
In that proposal, CCH claims that its offer provides wage increases that average over 4 percent. However, that increase includes the step increases members are already receiving in accordance with their protected union contract. The remainder of management’s offer did not address the key MNA proposals related to mandatory overtime, reduction-in-force language and other benefits.
The MNA offer made on-the-record to CCH includes proposals for a wage increase that would benefit all bargaining unit members, limits on mandatory overtime, increases in other benefits and the protection of members’ rights during a layoff.