News & Events

North Adams Regional Hospital RNs OK contract

Nurses to continue the struggle to protect quality care

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October 2010 Edition

The RNs of North Adams Regional Hospital recently ratified a two-year contract after approving a tentative agreement on Sept. 2, an agreement that averted a strike and ended nearly nine months of contentious negotiations. The new contract maintains important patient care protections in the nurses’ contract, while also preserving important rights and benefits the hospital wanted to take away from the nurses.

“Management came to the table with over one hundred concessionary demands and a very negative attitude that was perpetuated by the ‘union avoidance’ consultant they brought in from Ohio to conduct their negotiations,” said bargaining unit and RN Chair Ruth O’Hearn. “Their demands would have left us with little or no protection and would have made it impossible for us to stand up as advocates for our patients. Our members stood very strong and, with the support of the greater community, said these concessions were unacceptable.”

In the new contract, the RNS retained the ability to refuse overtime if they are exhausted or too ill to provide safe patient care. The nurses also defended and protected language in the contract that states the hospital will not admit patients unless they have the staff to provide quality care.

The quality of life issues were very important to the nurses according to unit co-chair Mary McConnell, RN. “We knew that if management prevailed we would have little or no control over our lives. We were able to retain our rights on mandatory overtime and other issues pertaining to scheduling. This was very important to us.”

Throughout the long negotiation process, the nurses never lost sight of the hospital’s difficult financial position. They neither asked for, nor received, any economic improvements in the contract. The hospital has applied for Critical Access Hospital status and has stated that they are planning to file for bankruptcy protection within the next year. NARH also is in merger/affiliation negotiations with Berkshire Medical Center. “Because of all the issues, we understand that this was just a step in keeping this hospital as the vital community resource it is. We pledge to the community that we will continue to fight for the highest quality of health care for our community and for ourselves,” said O’Hearn.