As Contract Talks Stall Over Issues of Staffing, Retiree Health, Wages
The 600 registered nurses of Boston Medical Center’s East Newton Campus plan to conduct an information picket outside the entrance to the facility from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, as contract talks continue to stall over inadequate staffing, oppressive management practices and below market wages, issues the nurses believe compromise their ability to recruit and retain staff needed to safely care for patients. Key issues in dispute include:
- Staffing/Floating Policies – The hospital is failing to recruit and retain the staff needed to maintain the level of care nurses are expected to deliver. To compensate for the lack of staff, the hospital has demanded the unrestricted right to “float” nurses from one area of the medical center to another where they may be unfamiliar with the equipment or procedures and may not be able to provide appropriate care. It is akin to asking a math teacher to also teach French. In the hospital setting, such practices can be dangerous.
- Retiree Health – The nurses are seeking a retiree health insurance benefit at a time when competing in-town hospitals are providing the benefit to their nurses. A recent national study by Fidelity Investments found that nearly 70 percent of nurses, who work in one of the most stressful and physically demanding professions, are concerned that they will need to retiree early due to health issues.
- Wages – The hospital has proposed a wage offer that will leave the nurses salary behind those in other Boston teaching hospitals. In fact, the proposal will leave the majority of the BMC nurses on the Newton Street campus as much as four percent behind their counterparts who work on the Harrison Ave. campus.
The BMC nurses are outraged by the hospital’s lack of effort to negotiate a fair settlement with the nurses in light of the fact that Boston Medical Center is one of the busiest and most profitable hospitals in the state, with state-of-the-art services catering to a patient population with complex needs and who require the most sophisticated nursing care. Boston Medical Center has posted record profits of more than $74 million in last 18 months and recently awarded CEO Elaine Ullian a 46 percent pay increase.
The BMC nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, recently filed for mediation in an attempt to break the logjam in negotiations for a new union contract. The first negotiation session with a Federal mediator was held Aug. 18. The parties began negotiations in Dec. 2008 and to date 23 sessions have been held. The contract expired in Feb. 2008 but has been extended through the next session on Aug. 28.