News & Events

State issues unfair labor practice complaint against Cambridge Hospital

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2010 Edition

Cambridge Hospital nurses hold informational picket.

The State Labor Relations Commission has issued a formal complaint against Cambridge Health Alliance, citing the organization for bargaining in bad faith and depriving nurses of their union rights following CHA’s decision to prematurely cease negotiations, declare impasse and unilaterally slash nurses’ retiree health benefits. The SLRC will schedule hearings on the complaint issued against CHA in mid-July.

“We are encouraged and vindicated that the labor commission has sided with the nurses and is holding the hospital accountable for its illegal and reprehensible behavior in its dealings with our members,” said Betty Kaloustian, co-chair of the local MNA bargaining unit, who has worked at the hospital for more than 36 years. “It is our hope that management will finally do the right thing, restore our rights and get back to the table to negotiate a fair settlement.”

The registered nurses of the Cambridge Hospital campus of CHA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the SLRC against the hospital on July 1 for its refusal to engage in good faith negotiations with the nurses in their effort to reach agreement on a new union contract. A fact finding hearing before the SLRC was held on July 8.

The nurses were outraged by management’s earlier decision to cease talks and declare impasse after only five sessions, while issuing their “last and final” offer on June 24. That offer included a 40 percent cut to the nurses’ retiree health benefit, an action that was in direct violation of state labor law and that requires parties to move to mediation and fact finding prior to seeking a declaration of impasse.

According to Julie Pinkham, MNA executive director, “Our organization cannot accept such a flagrant refusal to honor the rule of law, and we intend to use every means at our disposal to ensure that a true negotiation takes place that respects the rights of these nurses. This will cause irreparable harm to labor relations at the CHA facilities at a time when a positive working relationship is of paramount importance. Cambridge Hospital nurses hold informational picket. We cannot understand how the hospital board of trustees can condone such reckless behavior and we sincerely believe the CEO and the director of human resources, who implemented this strategy, should be held accountable for this egregious action.”

The MNA represents more than 400 nurses at Cambridge Hospital. Donna Mondeau, a long-time nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the bargaining unit, believes the retiree health benefit was a promise made to the nurses, many of whom have worked for years at the public sector facility, forgoing higher wages they could have made at nearby private sector hospitals. They stayed on at Cambridge in large part due to the retiree health and pension benefits.