GREENFIELD, Mass — Registered Nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center today picketed in front of the hospital to educate the public about the lack of progress in their negotiations for a new union contract, and efforts by the hospital to undermine nurses’ ability to advocate for their patients. The 209 nurses, who are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United bargaining unit, have been in negotiations since last October.
“We have been at the table for 24 sessions and Baystate continues to insist that we accept concessions that could have a very negative effect on our ability to deliver quality patient care,” said bargaining unit Co-Chair Linda Judd, RN. The heart of the dispute is an effort by Baystate to deprive the nurses of their union rights and their union voice, according to unit Co-Chair Donna Stern, RN, “We are nurses working in our community hospital. Greenfield is our home and most of us live in the area and use the hospital.
Baystate Health Inc. is one of largest and richest corporations in western Mass and they are drawing the line and attempting to impose their corporate needs on the nurses and on our community. In many cases the only explanation they give for their proposals is that ‘this is something we have to have.'”
Baystate is represented at the table by an expensive attorney from the national anti-union law firm, Jackson Lewis. It is clear to the nurses that Baystate is attempting to take away their union rights and bust the union. “Baystate is proposing language that would eliminate our right to negotiate over health insurance and wages. We see this as a first step in an attempt to bust our union. Our union is important to us and to our patients as it guarantees our right to advocate for our patients. We have had a union at Franklin Medical Center for over thirty years. It has served the nurses and our patients very well. We will fight to keep our rights and our ability to advocate for our patients. This is our community hospital and we will not let a Springfield corporation dictate the quality of care we can deliver to our patients and our community,” said Donna Stern.
The hospital’s demand to cut overtime pay for nurses working part time and to discipline nurses for calling in sick are other issues that concern the RNs. Although nurses are allowed paid sick time, Baystate has been disciplining RNs who have more than 3 illness occurrences in a year even though the nurses are legally entitled to use that sick time, and even though they are legitimately ill. The nurses say this practice forces RNs to make the decision to face discipline or go to work sick. These are nurses who constantly deliver care to very ill patients who have compromised immune systems. “No patient lying in a hospital bed wants to look up at a nurse who is clearly ill, yet this is the decision Baystate is forcing every nurse to make. It is unfair to the nurses and unsafe for our patients,” said Judd.
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