News & Events

Comments at NARH meeting lead to grievance

By Jennifer Huberdeau

Posted: 06/02/2010 01:47:29 AM EDT

Wednesday June 2, 2010

North Adams Transcript

NORTH ADAMS — Negotiations between the nurses’ union and hospital executives at North Adams Regional Hospital have become so contentious, that comments made during a monthly meeting have led to a grievance.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents some 108 registered nurses at the hospital, filed a grievance last week, alleging that comments made by Northern Berkshire Healthcare CEO Richard Palmisano during a monthly "professional day" left several nurses feeling "emotionally and physically harassed and intimidated."

Palmisano spoke to a group of nurses in May about the duties and role of the hospital’s Board of Trustees during the monthly professional day. Each month, senior management holds a staff meeting for staff who celebrate the anniversary of their "hiring date" during that particular month. Palmisano also answered questions posed by the nursing staff.

Hospital officials have refuted the allegations, saying that the questions posed by the staff were no different in tone than Palmisano’s answers.

"The characterization of the meeting by the MNA is inaccurate," Paul Hopkins, hospital spokesman said in a statement on Monday. "Mr. Palmisano has a direct style and addresses issues head-on. It’s unfortunate if that was misconstrued, as it seems to have been, by individuals at the professional day. Questions from the nurses in attendance were provocative and in some cases offensive in nature, and Mr. Palmisano addressed them directly."

Union Chairwoman Ruth O’Hearn, who was not present at the meeting in question, said she does not believe the nurses at the meeting misread Palmisano’s tone or intentions.

"This is not a case of people seeing things from a different point of view," she said on Monday. "I have seen statements from a large number of nurses present, who left the meeting feeling berated, threatened, unsafe and that it was not a professional career. These are nurses, who have worked here for 20 to 25 years, who say they have never been spoken to like that during their entire career."

She said the nurses are looking for a "response from the management that nurses can come into work and be treated professionally and be safe in their work environment."

Although the union’s three-year contract expired on March 31, the two sides have been at the bargaining table since January. In April, a federal mediator was called in to facilitate the collective bargaining meetings.

Both sides have filed grievances with the National Labor Relations Board. Hospital officials filed a grievance last month, alleging that the union unlawfully retaliated against the hospital by taking two grievances to arbitration just two days after a collective bargaining session.

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