News & Events

Federal mediator called to referee nurses’ contract talks at Quincy Medical

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By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Mar 15, 2011 @ 02:20 AM
Last update Mar 15, 2011 @ 04:05 AM

For a second year in a row, Quincy Medical Center management and the hospital’s nurses will be turning to a federal mediator to help resolve contentious contract negotiations.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association called for assistance from a mediator after the Canton-based union failed to reach a new contract agreement at the end of February with the hospital’s management. The nurses’ last contract, which was hammered out after months of talks last September, expired on Feb. 28.

“We’re not getting anyplace,” said Paula Ryan, the chairwoman of the nurses’ bargaining unit at the hospital. “We’re really not advancing at all.”

Both sides said they expect that negotiations won’t be able to resume until a mediator can participate, most likely sometime next month. Ryan said the new contract would cover about 260 nurses at the hospital.

One of the biggest sticking points is the handling of nurse-patient staffing ratios at the hospital. The union claims hospital management is demanding that nurses give up their right to file grievances to enforce staffing guidelines that have already been spelled out in a previous contract.

“We’re certainly willing to bargain in good faith,” said Victor Munger, the hospital’s senior vice president of human resources. “We still believe we can get back to the table. … (But) they want staffing ratios, day-to-day and shift-to-shift. That’s not something we’re willing to concede.”

A year ago, the hospital’s negotiations with the union turned sour as the hospital administration sought to fix a major budget gap by, among other things, cutting wages temporarily by the equivalent of 3 percent.

The hospital management imposed the pay cut, which was later adopted as part of the contract, after deciding that talks had reached an impasse. The nurses then complained to the National Labor Relations Board, although the federal agency ultimately upheld the hospital’s decision.

Munger said nearly 80 percent of the hospital’s 1,100 employers are represented by one of three unions. He said the hospital is also negotiating with those unions – Service Employees International Union 1199 and the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 367. The SEIU contract expires at the end of March, and the laborers’ contract expires at the end of May.

Munger said all three unions’ pay cuts will be reinstated as scheduled this spring.

“We approached everyone in the hospital (about wage cuts),” Munger said. “Every employee in this hospital has sacrificed.”

Jon Chesto may be reached at

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