Carrying signs that read, “negotiate don’t dictate, safe staffing now, and be fair to those who care, more than 200 registered nurses of Quincy Medical Center, joined by dozens of supporters, conducted an information picket outside the entrance to the facility on April 13.
The picket was scheduled after the MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board for their appalling decision to cease negotiations for a new contract and to declare impasse after only six sessions. Citing the hospital’s financial instability, QMC management is demanding that the nurses cut their wages by three percent, increase their health insurance by five percent, and freeze their pension along with other benefit cuts, all of which were implemented on Sunday, April 4.
“The nurses of this hospital are outraged by this unprecedented, and we believe, illegal approach to what should be a good faith process to reach a fair settlement that protects the hospital while valuing the role of nurses in making this hospital run day in and day out,” said Paula Ryan, RN, a longtime nurse at the hospital and chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “They are demanding that nurses make significant sacrifices, without providing us the opportunity to negotiate over those changes. For them, it’s take it or leave it. They are stomping on our legal rights and we will not be bullied, we will not be intimidated.”
For their part, the nurses have stated they could agree to some concessions, providing the hospital reciprocates by agreeing to make staffing improvements promised in the last round of contract negotiations, and that the concessions sunset (which means the cuts would be automatically restored) at the end of the new contract. The nurses are also seeking an ex officio (non-voting) seat on the hospital board of trustees, which will allow them to provide input in the hospital’s “transformation” plan.
“The nurses are fully aware of the hospital’s financial situation, and we are not opposed to making sacrifices, which is something we have been doing for the last decade to help this hospital,” said Ryan,. “However, we also have a greater responsibility to our patients, and we cannot accept a contract that fails to ensure that we have the staff and resources to keep our patients safe. We all have a vested interest in supporting this hospital, but we can’t do so at the expense of our patients well being. It’s one thing to shortchange staff, it’s quite another to undermine the core mission of this hospital, which is to provide quality nursing care.”
Negotiations for a new contract began on February 18, 2010, with a total of six sessions held to date. The contract expired on March 31. The MNA charge against the hospital contends that the hospital’s declaration of impasse was premature, coming only after five bargaining sessions, and only one with a Federal Mediator, who was called in by both parties for their last session on March 24 to help the parties move the process forward.
Marching with the nurses were their colleagues from a number of MNA local bargaining units, including nurses from Cambridge Health Alliance, Caritas Norwood Hospital, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, MNA Unit 7 of RNs and Health Professionals, Jordan Hospital, Brockton Hospital, Faulkner Hospital, Tufts Medical Center and Boston Medical Center. The nurses also garnered significant support from the labor community, including participation by AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes, James Howard, secretary and Robert Rizzi, president of the Norfolk County Central Labor Council, James Pinkham, president of the Plymouth/Bristol County Central Labor Council, along with members from NEMSA, Teamsters Local 25, Local 103 IBEW , IAM Local 264 Machinists, Local 17 Sheetmetal Workers, Local 2222 IBEW, Laborers Local 133, Boston Mailers Local 1 , Laborers Local 367.
Public officials in attendance included State Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy), Quincy School Committee member Elaine Dwyer, former Quincy City Council member Marty Aikes, candidate for state representative Tackey Chan, and candidate for governor Grace Ross.