SPRINGFIELD, MA -- The Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, on behalf of registered nurses of the Baystate Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice (BVNA&H), has filed a formal charge against Baystate Health with the National Labor Relations Board for bargaining in bad faith in negotiations for a new contract. The charge is the latest in a series of complaints filed against Baystate Health for its dealings with the nurses, both at the BVNA&H and during negotiations with the nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.
The charge was filed following a recent negotiating session, where Baystate Health stipulated that any contract settlement with the nurses must also include a commitment by the nurses to withdraw a wage and hour lawsuit filed in Hampden Superior Court in December 2013. The class action lawsuit, which is independent from the contract negotiations, seeks to recover lost wages for unpaid hours worked by the nurses over several years. Baystate’s effort to link the withdrawal of the lawsuit to a settlement of their current contract negotiations represents a violation of federal labor law, according to the MNA/NNU.
After the positive contract settlement with the Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses two weeks ago, the BVNA&H nurses had high hopes that Baystate would want to reach a settlement with the visiting nurses since they have been in negotiations for more than three years. Instead Baystate came to the bargaining table and insisted that the nurses withdraw the Wage and Hour lawsuit. The MNA/NNU negotiator explained this had nothing to do with ongoing negotiations, that it was simply the nurses’ last effort at recouping unpaid wages for nurses who had worked countless hours beyond their shift but had not been paid for their work. Baystate still insisted that the nurses drop the lawsuit in order to settle the contract. The MNA/NNU contends this was an illegal demand and we have now turned the matter over to the National Labor Relations Board for a full investigation.
Baystate Health has been involved in a three-year negotiation with its nurses at the BVNA&H for a new union contract. Talks began in January 2011, with more than 35 negotiating sessions held to date, with most of those sessions involving a federal mediator. After Baystate finally agreed to a new contract with the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on February 7, 2014, both parties discussed their willingness to meet and reach a settlement with the BVNA&H nurses. Talks resumed on February 7 when they broke down upon Baystate’s demand to drop the lawsuit.
This NLRB charge follows an NLRB intervention earlier, when Baystate management unlawfully declared an impasse in negotiations with the nurses at Baystate Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice. Because of the NLRB’s intervention, Baystate rescinded its declaration of impasse and returned to negotiations.
The class action lawsuit against Baystate is being processed in Hampden Superior Court and resulted from unpaid wages over the course of several years. The BVNA&H nurses are routinely required to make preparations before their first home care visits for the day and subsequently to complete lengthy documentation of their visits, but are frequently not paid for that work which can sometimes take several hours per day. Computerized documentation has become more lengthy and cumbersome in recent years, but no accommodation has been made to allow nurses time to complete the required documentation during the normal course of the workday. As a result nurses have been forced to work many hours of unpaid time each week.
Negotiations are scheduled to resume on March 6 in Springfield.