The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Southcoast Hospitals Group, owner of Tobey Hospital in Wareham, for bargaining in bad faith with the registered nurses at Tobey Hospital. The NLRB found that Southcoast prematurely declared an impasse in ongoing contract talks and unlawfully implemented a pay freeze and other benefit cuts. The NLRB ruling supports charges made against Southcoast by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing the 142 nurses who work at the hospital.
“By its overall conduct (Southcoast) has failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the Unit,” the NLRB wrote in its complaint.
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Contract negotiations between Southcoast and the RNs began in November of 2014, but less than six months later hospital management began its pattern of bad-faith bargaining by:
- Submitting “a new and regressive bargaining proposal” pertaining to a wage freeze on March 9, 2015. That proposal violated a key ground rule both parties had previously agreed to, which stated that neither party could submit any new proposals after Dec. 17, 2014.
- Declaring impasse and implementing its final offer. This occurred during the parties’ eighth contract negotiation session on April 15, 2015; only the last three of those sessions included a federal mediator.
The final offer that management implemented has led to RNs’ wages being frozen, the elimination of two paid holidays, and the loss of a 3 percent core contribution to nurses’ 401K accounts. The implementation, which occurred on April 15, has also meant that the nurses have not been able to bargain over other key issues, including contract language specific to scheduling, layoffs, and successorship standards.
The NLRB sent written notification of its decision to Southcoast Hospitals Group on Aug. 3. The Group must now file an answer to the complaint with the NLRB no later than Aug. 14. Should Southcoast choose to argue against the initial ruling, the NLRB will schedule a hearing on the matter, at which point the Board’s decision will be final and binding. A final decision in the nurses’ favor will result in the payment of back wages and benefits.