News & Events

News Coverage on Morton Strike (2 Articles)

By Gerry Tuoti
Staff writer
Posted Apr 22, 2010 @ 09:46 PM

Taunton – There will be no nurses strike at Morton Hospital and Medical Center.

The six-month-long labor dispute between hospital administrators and the nurses union has finally been resolved, with both sides reaching a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract.

“The agreement avoids the strike that had been threatened, and coming to this agreement was in best interest of all employees and the hospital’s patients,” said Cara Hart, Morton’s vice president of administrative services. 

When negotiations stalled earlier this month, the nurses union had scheduled an April 28 vote on a strike, but with a new agreement now in place, the potential for a strike has evaporated, union officials said.

“Our committee is recommending that this is a good agreement,” said nurse Joyce Wilkins, who chairs the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s local bargaining unit. “I am very proud of the commitment and dedication of the nurses and health professionals at Morton Hospital.”

The union will hold a vote on May 4 to ratify the new contract.

The new agreement was forged Tuesday, but the parties agreed to wait until Thursday morning to announce it.

The agreement addresses many issues that emerged as sticking points during negotiations. There is now written language, for example, that puts limits on mandatory overtime. No nurse or health professional will be required to work more than 12 hours in a row, and none will be mandated to work overtime more than twice a quarter.

Another point of contention was the management’s plan to replace the existing pension system with a defined contribution 403(b), a move the union strongly opposed. The new agreement will keep the current system in place, but the union and the hospital will form a joint committee to examine and evaluate the issue. The contract could be reopened in 2011 to evaluate the pension based on the hospital’s financial status.

“The hospital does have the right to re-open the contract later this year to resume formal negotiations over pensions,” Hart said. “The current pension plan remains a serious problem for the financial sustainability of the hospital. We hope we will come to an understanding of each party’s concerns and perspectives.”

The parties also agreed to changes to help defray the rising cost of health insurance. Starting in January, a grandfathering provision that allowed nurses hired before 1998 to pay a lower premium will be discontinued. They also agreed to modest increases in certain co-pays effective July 1.

Union members will also get an across the board wage increase retroactive to Jan. 1, and a 1 percent increases on July 1; a 1 percent raise on Jan. 1, 2011, with a 2 percent increase to the top step of the pay scale, making it a full 4 percent step; and another 1 percent across the board raise on July 1, 2011. The contract can be reopened in 2012 to review salary. differentials, health insurance and pension benefits.

“We negotiated for a long time and weighed a lot of issues very seriously,” Wilkins said. “We have gotten the mandatory overtime language that was so important to us and we have held onto our pension for a year. That gives us time to review and look at everything with our experts and their experts. We hope to have good conversation and move forward.”

The union and the hospital began negotiating a new contract in October, but had been unable to come to terms on several points. The old contract was originally set to expire Dec. 31, but was extended several times by mutual agreement. In total, there were 22 negotiating sessions, the last eight of which included a federal mediator.

“We are very pleased that we’ve come to this agreement and want to reiterate that coming to this agreement will allow us to move forward and focus on the future of the hospital so the hospital will compete in the changing health care landscape in Massachusetts,” Hart said.

Contact Gerry Tuoti at



Morton nurses reach tentative pact

TAUNTON – Morton Hospital registered nurses and health professionals have reached a tentative contract, averting a strike vote next week.

The new three-year deal reached on Tuesday includes a 4 to 6 percent raise, as well as strong language limiting mandatory overtime and protecting the defined benefit pension plan.
A strike vote had been scheduled for next Wednesday, April 28.

The 400 nurses and health professionals will vote to ratify the new contract May 4. The deal will run from Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012.

"We are thrilled to have achieved this settlement, which is a victory for all of us — nurses, health professionals, management, and most important of all, our patients, who will benefit from nurses having safer practice conditions," said Joyce Wilkins, RN, chair of the nurse’s local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

"This agreement also maintains a benefits package that will allow this hospital to continue to recruit and retain the excellent professional staff our community expects and deserves."