Springfield—The registered nurses who work at Parkview Specialty Hospital in Springfield have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Kindred Healthcare, the new for-profit health care corporation that purchased the facility on March 1st. The nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are outraged by the corporation’s blatant disregard for the nurses’ union rights and Kindred’s recent illegal efforts to unilaterally alter or disregard a host of contractually guaranteed rights and benefits.
Kindred unilaterally changed a number of benefits and conditions of employment that the nurses’ union had bargained over the years with various former owners of the hospital. Among these were the medical insurance plans offered, dental plan offered, costs of these plans, employee insurance co-pays, pay week, work schedules, pay differentials, vacation time, sick time, personal time, holiday time, contractual leaves of absence and just cause for discipline standard.
According to the MNA’s Roland Goff, this type of unilateral change is nearly unprecedented in Massachusetts. “We have represented the RNs in this facility for many years. We have negotiated with previous owners and have always been able to reach a solution. This for-profit company has acted as though the nurses do not have a union. We have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over Kindred’s unilateral decision to implement these changes. The MNA attempted to negotiate with Kindred over the change in ownership prior to its taking control of the facilities, but Kindred cancelled the meetings. Kindred rehired all bargaining unit RNs who were formerly employees of Parkview.”
The MNA charges that Kindred violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by unilaterally changing numerous terms and conditions of employment without negotiating. The existing contracts should have remained in full force and effect until the parties reached agreement on a new contract between Kindred and the MNA.
The changes have led to large increases in insurance costs and prescription drug co-pays, unilaterally reducing the RNs take home pay. Kindred has also altered long standing work schedules imposing a hardship on those who have to care for young children or other family members.
According to Goff, the Director of Labor Action for the MNA, “These types of changes could lead to difficulty in retaining and recruiting experienced nurses. If Kindred Healthcare really wants to make the hospital better, then it needs to start by treating its employees fairly and with respect to their rights and profession. Otherwise, it is just another for-profit provider who makes the hospital a more difficult place to work."