The nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center will hold a vote to ratify a new contract on Thursday, February 13, which follows the negotiation of a tentative agreement reached last Friday that averted a one-day strike scheduled for Monday. The pact provides protections the nurses had sought to prevent the use of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing at the hospital. It also includes improvements to the nurses’ health insurance benefit and will grant the nurses pay raises.
The new contract covers five years, and expires on Dec. 31, 2016. Highlights of the agreement include:
• Baystate withdrew its proposal to eliminate “daily overtime.” Baystate’s call for this concession, where they would pay overtime only after 40 hours worked, was the key sticking point in the talks. Instead the parties agreed to maintain the nurses’ current benefit, with the addition of a one-hour grace period for daily overtime. This means that any work that is performed beyond one hour after the end of a nurse’s scheduled shift triggers payment of time and one half back to the end of the nurse’s scheduled shift; and in all cases, nurses have the protected right to refuse to work over time if he/she feels this would jeopardize the care of his/her patients.
• Baystate has agreed to clear language in the contract obligating Baystate to fully comply with the Massachusetts state law banning mandatory overtime. This law prohibits hospitals from using the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing and guarantees that no nurse can be required to work beyond their scheduled shift. The hospital had previously refused to provide a contractual guarantee to adhere to the law which, in combination with their demand for a concession on overtime pay, led the nurses to make a stand and strike over this important patient safety issue.
• An increase in the share of the family health insurance premium that Baystate pays from the current 70 percent of premium to 75 percent of premium.
• Wages and Bonuses: A 4 percent across the board raise for 2014 and an additional 1 percent across the board pay hike each year in 2015 and 2016. In addition nurses will receive bonuses upon ratification of the agreement of $2,000 for nurses who work 36 hours or more; $1,500 for nurses who work 24 hours or more and $1,000 for nurses who work less than 24 hours per week.