News & Events

Nurses Picket N.A.R.H. Over Concession Demands

N.A.R.H. RNs Vow To Protect Retirement and Health Benefits

NORTH ADAMS, Mass — Nurses and their supporters from the community and labor picketed North Adams Regional Hospital today over the slow progress of negotiations and management’s continued insistence that the RNs should grant major concessions in their retirement and health care benefits. The registered nurses, who are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining unit at the hospital, have taken the position that they have no desire to give back gains they have fought for over the past 25 years. The nurses are asking for a fair contract that will allow the hospital to recruit and retain experienced nurses. “We live in this community; we treat patients who are our friends and neighbors,” said Mary McConnell RN, Co-Chair of the bargaining unit. “We know that it is of the utmost importance to gain an equitable contract so we can continue to deliver quality care to our friends and neighbors.”

At the table the hospital management continues to complain about its dire finances. However, McConnell points to the fact that the hospital is not taking the same position with the public. “In the local newspaper we read that their bonding situation is improving. We see they have the resources to fund NEW high level administrative positions and they are spending millions on new hospital software. At the same time they do not want to spend their resources to fund the benefits in the contract that would allow us to retain and recruit the quality nurses the community has become accustomed to.”

The hospital’s opening proposal sought to end the nurses’ defined benefit pension plan while providing a small increase in the defined contribution. They have made small adjustments in their proposal but the most recent alternatives do not come close to matching the present plan.

On health insurance the hospital is seeking to remove the language “equivalent or better” from the contract sections that cover health insurance. By maintaining this language we are seeking to guarantee we will continue to receive the same benefits if management makes any changes in health insurance. Without this phrase management could unilaterally make changes to decrease the nurses’ health benefits.

In a move that could have a very negative affect on patient care, management is seeking to double the amount of time RNs can be held over on mandatory overtime. While national studies have shown that patient safety suffers the longer a nurse works, management wants to expand mandatory overtime from 2 to 4 hours.

“We have been at the table now for over seven months. It is time for the hospital to put its resources into a fair and equitable contract for those who are delivering excellent care to the people of northern Berkshire County. We also would like to thank all those neighbors, friends, and supporters who came out today to say it is time to settle an equitable contract,” said McConnell.