As Talks Ended Today Without Movement on Key Issues
BOSTON, MA—The Brigham & Women’s Hospital (BWH) nurses’ negotiating committee tonight issued an official notice of their intent to strike as of Wed., Nov. 29, 2006 at 6 a.m. as a 10- hour negotiating session today failed to address a number of issues the nurses believe compromise their ability to recruit and retain staff needed to safely care for patients.
“We are very disappointed and angered by our administration’s failure to engage in a real negotiation to avoid a strike,” said Barbara Norton, RN, chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “Management continues to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of nurses and a blind eye to the suffering of our patients. While none of us wants to strike, we are ready and willing to do so in defense of our patients and the future of nursing at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.”
On Monday, 95 percent of the BWH nurses voted to authorize a strike, the largest nurse’s strike vote in the state’s history. The nurses are angered and frustrated by chronically poor staffing levels at the facility, which are threatening the safety of patients and causing a high turnover of staff on a number of floors.
In the last two months alone, nurses have filed more than 100 official reports documenting instances when staffing conditions jeopardized the safety of patients.
Key issues in dispute include:
- Union Rights – The nurses are seeking contract language that protects union rights for nurses at the facility and their ability to advocate for patients. The proposed contract language, the first of its kind in Massachusetts, is designed to prevent the hospital from exploiting a recent controversial ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, which found that charge nurses (nurses who oversee the flow of patients on a floor) or nurses who perform charge duties may be classified as supervisors, and are thereby ineligible for union membership.
- Protecting Newly Licensed Nurses – The nurses are seeking appropriate restrictions on the responsibilities of newly licensed and newly hired nurses. The overburdening of new nurses by management is a major cause of the high turnover of staff.
- Competitive Wages – The BWH nurses are paid as much as 10 percent below nurses at like-sized hospitals in Boston. The hospital is offering the nurses a two year contract with a 3 percent per year cost-of-living pay raise each year, while the nurses are asking for 5 percent per year to make BWH competitive with other hospitals.
- Sick Time & Disability Benefits – The hospital is seeking to restrict nurses’ access to sick time, while refusing to provide a short-term disability benefit, which was the nurses’ number one priority going into negotiations.
The Brigham nurses are outraged by the hospital’s lack of effort to negotiate a fair settlement with the nurses in light of the fact that Brigham & Women’s Hospital is one the busiest and most profitable hospitals in the state. According to latest official report of the hospital’s financial performance by the state Division of Healthcare Finance and Policy, Brigham & Women’s profits increased by nearly 120 percent in 2005 to more than $93 million, and the facility posted another $65.8 million in profits through the third quarter of this year alone.
The 2,700 nurses of BWH, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations on July 13, 2006 with a total of 10 negotiating sessions held to date. The contract expired on September 30 but has been extended until Nov. 27. The Federal mediator has called for another negotiating session on Nov. 20.