News & Events

UMass Medical School RNs Will Hold an Informational Picket on June 4

 As Contract Talks Stall Over Failure to Provide UMMS RNs the Same Pay and Benefits as Nurses at UMass Memorial Health Care As Promised in Merger Legislation

While UMMS Nurses Work Side-by-Side with UMMC Nurses Every Day, Medical School Management Wants to Pay them 16 percent Less

WORCESTER, Mass. — Registered nurses who are employed by UMass Medical School (UMMS) as a result of the merger of the UMass Memorial Health Care system back in 1998 issued a notice to UMass Medical School management of their intention to hold an informational picket on June 4 from 4 – 6 p.m. The nurses, who have been negotiating a new contract for over one year, decided to issue the picket notice as management continues to refuse to offer them a contract with the same terms and conditions as that recently negotiated with the 700 registered nurses employed in the private sector system at UMass Memorial-University Campus.

Pursuant to state legislation, Memorial Hospital and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center merged in 1998. All eligible RNs were offered positions with the private sector entity UMass Memorial, and approximately 90 RNs remained Medical School employees so that they could achieve sufficient service for retirement benefits or because the program they worked for is run by the Medical School.

The current contract dispute involves more than 90 registered nurses who remained Medical School employees. Seventy nurses are leased to UMass Memorial and work side-by-side at the University Campus at 55 Lake Avenue North. Another 20 nurses have been assigned to work in an adolescent psychiatric unit that is operated by UMMS. The nurses at the adolescent psychiatric units work in a unique setting that is one of the most stressful and dangerous units in the state.

Susan Campbell, RN, BSN, who cares for troubled adolescents says, "These children come from horrendous backgrounds of abuse and neglect causing them to resort to violence and self-abuse, but through proper care of dedicated and experienced staff these children have hope for a better future and more productive lives. If we do not have a competitive wage scale, recruitment and retention of experienced staff will be difficult and may jeopardize these important treatment programs."

When the merger of the UMass and Memorial was completed by the legislature in 1998, the intent was to assure RNs comparable wages and benefits. In the first contract negotiated following the merger, all employees, both in the state system and in the private sector, were allowed to negotiate at the same table and were awarded identical contracts in keeping with the spirit of the merger legislation.

But in this round of negotiations, UMass Medical School management insisted that separate negotiations be held. The nurses in the private sector bargaining unit recently negotiated and ratified an agreement granting the nurses a 6 percent general wage increase over two years and the addition of two new wage steps (each worth 6.8 percent) for nurses with long service at the institution. Under the latest UMMS offer, the 90 public sector nurses will be paid more than 16 percent less than their colleagues in the private sector.

"These nurses work every day caring for the same patients and they deserve the same salary and benefits in their contract that was awarded to our private sector colleagues," said Robin DiDonato, chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit at the Medical School. "When this merger took place, a promise was made to all of us that none of us would be disadvantaged by the merger. That promise has been broken and we want the public to know that we don’t think this is fair. We will be asking for their support in convincing UMMS management to keep their word."

In addition to conducting informational picketing, the nurses have been meeting with area legislators and other public officials to make their case and ask for their support in convincing UMMS management to change its position at the table.

The nurses handed in their picket notice at the end of a negotiating session held yesterday. They plan to picket on June 4 from 4 – 6 p.m. outside the main entrance to the Medical School.