News & Events

QMC Nurses Hold Informational Picket Over 3% Wage Cut, 5% Increase In Health Insurance Costs, Pension Freezes.

Joe Reardon, Quincy Sun, April 15, 2010

Paula Ryan was busy handing out buttons and greeting nurses Tuesday afternoon outside the Quincy Medical Center. On the sidewalk, more than a hundred nurses walked slowly in a straight line that stretched for 50 yards. Passersby in vehicles beeped their horns in encouragement.

Wearing sandwich board signs that read “Our Priority Is Our Patients” and “United We Stand,” the nurse were staging an informational picket over a unilateral imposition of 3% wage cut, 5% increase in health insurance costs and pension freezes because of the medical center’s financial difficulties. The plan was implemented on April 4. The nurses were also up in arms over the medical center’s refusal to address the nurses’ concerns for safer staffing levels.

“Our issue is this is the fifth time in 11 years that the hospital has come to the nurses,” said Ryan a resident nurse of 42 years and chair of the local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Our priority is staffing and it has lessened. We have language in the contract and they’re not honoring it.”

The picket came on the heels of an emergency meeting held on April 1 (sic) where the nurses expressed overwhelming support for their union’s position. They then authorized the negotiating committee to issue the 10-day required notice for informational picketing outside the medical center.

The nurses entered into negotiations with the medical center on February 18 but they lasted just six sessions before the medical center declared the two sides were at an impasse. The MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the medical center with the National Labor Relations Board for their decision to cease the negotiations.

“They are demanding that nurses make significant sacrifices, without providing us the opportunity to negotiate over those changes,” said Ryan. “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.”

Stacey McEachern, an emergency room RN from Hanover, said the nurses were looking for a date when the cutbacks would stop and stressed the need for ancillary staff. “We felt we could have continued negotiating,” said McEachern.

But according to the medical center, it was the nurses who were unwilling to budge.

“We have made good faith efforts to gain the nurses’ support for a short-term contract to address these urgent financial needs,” said Quincy Medical Center spokesperson Janice Sullivan. “Unfortunately, after numerous bargaining sessions, it became clear, especially after the involvement of a federal mediator that the parties were at an impasse on even the limited number of items up for discussion in this short-term contract. We hope the nurses will come to understand the need to join their fellow workers and other stakeholders in making temporary sacrifices for the good of the hospital.

“Quincy Medical Center provides high quality care and meets strict standards for safety as reflected in the recent award of the Gold Seal of Approval for the Joint Commission, a national health care accreditation body. We have been transparent with our staff and our community regarding the financial challenges that Quincy Medical Center must take decisive action now to ensure the stability and survivability of the hospital and its mission. The union has a right to express its opinions regarding its contract status and we expect it will do so in a respectful way without disrupting patients, service at the hospital and our neighbors.”

Ryan, though, said just one of the meetings was federally mediated. She wasn’t surprised by the medical center’s swift end to negotiations. “We felt at the first session they were going to declare an impasse,” Ryan said.

The nurses, though, have stated they could agree to some concessions, providing the hospital makes staffing improvements promised in the last round of contract negotiations. They’re also looking to add an ex officio (non-voting) seat on the medical center’s board of trustees, allowing the nurses to provide input in the hospital’s “transformation” plan, according to Ryan.