News & Events

Nurses Question Governor Romney’s Commitment to Quality Health Care

Wage Scale is 35% Below Private Sector
It is the State’s Most Vulnerable Citizens Who Are Harmed

After 934 days without a contract and a year and a half of negotiations, the registered nurses and health care professionals of the state’s Unit 7, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, today have found the talks to be stalled.

The Unit 7 members were especially upset that the state refused to move off their latest offer that would still leave nurses and other health care professionals 25 to 35 percent below the private sector wage scale.

According to Bill Fyfe, RN and president of Unit 7 this is all very depressing because every day his members see the negative effects on their patients. “Our primary goal in these negotiations has been to reach a competitive pay structure that will allow our facilities to recruit and retain professional staff. Because of the low salaries and the demands due to low staffing, many of our facilities are seeing vacancy rates of up to 35 percent.”

“We, the negotiating committee, have serious questions about the state’s motivation in trying to keep salaries so far below those in the private sector,” said Fyfe. “We are beginning to think that this is the state’s way of killing these facilities slowly. The longer they pay the low wages, the more nurses and professionals leave, the easier it will be to shut down these facilities.”

Comparison studies have found that these health care professionals, who work with the states most vulnerable patients, are paid 35% less that their counterparts in the private sector. “We have many dedicated members who love the work they do. It is very fulfilling and gratifying to work with disabled veterans, the severely mentally retarded, and the mentally ill, but they also have responsibilities to their own families. Many have left for the private sector,” said Fyfe.

State-employed health professionals include registered nurses, physicians, pharmacists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dentists, speech and hearing therapists and podiatrists. They work in soldiers’ homes for disabled veterans; state hospitals for the mentally ill; and residential facilities for mentally retarded adults. They also work at centers for HIV and drug-affected mothers and children; group homes for those who cannot live independently; and high-security wards for violent adolescents or suicidal/homicidal residents, mentally ill prisoners, and clients sent for pre-trial evaluations. They also work in public health programs throughout the state. They work to protect the health of our state’s children to insure all are vaccinated and to decrease the incidences of lead paint poisoning. They work to prevent and control the spread of tuberculosis and outbreaks of Hepatitis A in our communities throughout the state.

Fyfe questions Governor Romney’s commitment to quality health care. “Last night in his State of the State speech the governor called for an expansion of the state’s health care system. While that is a laudable goal, how can we believe him when he refuses to show respect to those employees who have dedicate their professional careers to caring for the states most vulnerable citizens.”