By Matt Lynch/Daily News staff
Wed Dec 12, 2007, 03:09 PM EST
MARLBOROUGH – After several months of negotiation and help from a federal mediator, Marlborough Hospital nurses last week approved a new contract.
"It’s a sense of relief," said Carol Palazzi, a psychiatric nurse and chairwoman of the nurses’ local bargaining unit represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Talks between the hospital and the nurses broke down over salary and contract language for the process of filing grievances.
Palazzi said nurses ratified a two-year contract that calls for an 8 percent raise for nurses at the top step and a 6 percent raise for all other nurses over the next two years.
Hospital officials said in a statement they were glad to have finished negotiations and believe the new wages will be competitive.
"We believe that this settlement is fair and equitable to all registered nurses and ensures that their compensation is competitive with other community hospitals in the region," Candra Szymanski, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said in a statement yesterday.
David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the nurses association, said by the end of the deal salary at the top of the scale will be $50 an hour. The Massachusetts Nurses Association represents approximately 130 nurses at Marlborough Hospital.
"It’s always good to have a contract settled," he said. "Now we can get down to the business of taking care of patients."
Negotiations dragged on for several months after the old contract expired Sept. 30. However, there was never a strike as that contract was renewed for weeks as a time as the two sides negotiated.
Palazzi said the grievance issue was resolved by taking language from another contract Marlborough nurses thought was less restrictive than what the hospital initially had offered.
With the wage increase, the hospital will hopefully have an easier time retaining nurses it pays to train. Nurses complained during negotiations Marlborough Hospital had essentially become a first step, where nurses would come for training and then leave for other, higher-paying hospitals.
"It’s a competitive wage," she said. "I certainly hope (more nurses stay in Marlborough. We put a lot of money and effort into training new nurses."
(Matt Lynch can be reached at 508-490-7453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)