Regional Council 1 News
Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurses File Unfair Labor Practice Charges With National Labor Relations Board Against Baystate Health
GREENFIELD, Mass – The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have filed six federal unfair labor practice charges against hospital owner Baystate Health.
BFMC nurses filed the charges with the National Labor Relations Board this week asserting that Baystate has engaged in a pattern of unfair and illegal bargaining. Baystate has repeatedly failed to provide information requested by nurses, shown a pattern of delays and refused to negotiate over mandatory bargaining subjects such as nurse workload, health insurance, retirement and health and safety language.
“Rather than engage nurses on our top priority – safe patient limits targeted to BFMC patient needs – Baystate has bargained in bad faith, threatening our ability to make sure our patients receive the safest possible care,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric RN and chair of the BFMC RN Bargaining Committee.
The approximately 200 BFMC nurses entered negotiations with Baystate last fall. A federal mediator recently joined the bargaining process. Below is a summary of the charges. For a copy of the NLRB filing, contact Joe Markman at 781-571-8175 or email@example.com.
- Baystate has engaged in legal bad faith “surface bargaining” – just going through the motions of bargaining but not upholding its legal obligation to bargain in good faith.
- Baystate has refused to bargain over mandatory subjects, including health and safety measures, safe nurse workload language and health insurance.
- Baystate has refused and failed to provide information requested by the nurses that is necessary to bargain over health insurance and has refused to meet at reasonable times and places for negotiations.
The National Labor Relations Act (1935) makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise” of their collective bargaining rights.
Negotiations Background – BFMC Safe Staffing Proposal
Negotiations between BFMC/MNA nurses and Baystate Health began in November 2016 over a new contract to replace the agreement that was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2016. There have been 12 sessions held to date. A mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined the bargaining process on February 21. The next session is scheduled for March 8.
BFMC nurses’ top priority during negotiations has been to improve nurse staffing and workload within their MNA contract to ensure safe and effective patient care. This language will hold the hospital accountable for staffing appropriately based on the type of BFMC unit and its makeup of patients. Baystate has refused to engage BFMC nurses’ important patient safety proposal, pretending in public that no problems exist.
During negotiations, nurses have presented their own experiences with unsafe staffing and have provided the hospital with documentation proving the problem is both real and going unaddressed by Baystate. To receive copies of the following documents, please contact Joe Markman at 781-571-8175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Baystate management sent at least 128 text messages to RNs in just one medical-surgical telemetry unit between Aug. 30, 2016 and Feb. 13, 2017. These messages requested nurses to work when they were scheduled to be off because of staffing shortages.
The text messages show that BFMC is jeopardizing safe patient care when the hospital does not have enough nurses at a given time. They also show that nurses are at the beck and call of the employer 24/7, and have little control over their personal lives, including little ability to plan personal time with their families. Despite this, management has rejected all proposals related to staffing and hiring.
An example message: “We have unsafe staffing for 7A-3P due to sick calls. Please contact [manager’s name] if you are able to work any part of these hours for o/c pay. we especially need coverage from 7A-llA. Thank you. To confirm: reply with YES.”
- The state Department of Public Health collects incidents of mandatory overtime from hospitals. A compendium of BFMC’s mandatory overtime (where a nurse is ordered not to leave for hours past the end of their shift) obtained through a public records act request to the DPH shows that there were at least 19 such incidents between July and December 2016 – all of which appear to have violated the law. The law banning forced overtime provides exceptions for state and federal disasters and other catastrophic incidents, but not for routine predictable events. Yet BFMC’s mandatory overtime reports are based on those routine hospital issues, rather than catastrophes.
An example violation: “The emergency room had 7 inpatient border patients and all units were full. All available staff were called to come in and assist but not able to get enough staff to work. One RN mandated to ensure safe care on unit.” (Translation: Seven patients were “boarding” in the ER because there were not enough RN staff to make it possible for them to be brought to beds in the hospital and there were no additional RNs at home who could come in, so the hospital ordered ED RNs not to go home on penalty of firing).
Baystate Financial Resources to Support Safe Staffing
Baystate has the means to provide safe staffing to its patients, and fair benefits and wages for the nurses and staff who care for them.
Baystate Health ended 2014 and 2015 with a combined $121 million in profit, according to state financial documents. Between 2010 and 2015, Baystate Medical Center made $480 million in profits.
BFMC itself is also profitable. The hospital’s 2015 profits were 289 percent of the average of all Massachusetts hospitals, according to state filings. During the first three quarters of fiscal year 2016, BFMC reported $3.7 million in profits for a 5 percent operating margin.
In 2014, the top fifteen Baystate executives made $7,691,623. Former CEO Mark Tolosky was still getting paid to the tune of $1.7 million.
Baystate contributed $2.6 million into secondary retirement plans for “highly compensated” executives who had already maxed out their contribution to the defined contribution plan to which other employees have access.
Baystate’s 2015 annual reports identified $15.4 million in reserves in the system’s Cayman Islands-based Baystate Health Insurance Company
In May 2016, Moody’s Investors Service, which provides corporate credit ratings and risk analysis, said Baystate has a “strong market share,” and noted that any recent dips in annual profits are primarily the result of Health New England losses, not hospital services: “We expect consolidated financial performance to improve in FY 2016 led by stronger performance at the provider division.”