News & Events

Noteworthy news from the negotiating table

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
February/March 2011 Edition

Updates current as of March 10.

Nurses at Morton Hosptial hold tight to original pension proposal
The MNA leadership at Morton Hospital continues its talks with management regarding the pension benefit. Management still wants to move to a defined contribution plan, while the nurses at Morton do not intend to move away from a defined benefit pension plan.

The nurses’ current proposal—to move to the MNA’s Nurses Pension Fund, the new multi-employer defined benefit plan—is a reasonable compromise that would allow nurses to keep their benefit while providing a number of advantages to the hospital.

Tufts management finally presents its proposals: Seeks significant takeaways; add insult to injury
After nine negotiating sessions, management at Tufts Medical Center finally introduced the bulk of its proposals and they were outrageous. Specifically, they proposed a number of concessions and takeaways including:

Cuts to health insurance benefit: The hospital wants to increase all nurses’ health insurance premiums to 20 percent (50 percent for part time nurses) while also taking away nurses’ access to the current health plan choices and forcing all nurses into the Tufts plan only.

Cuts to overtime pay: The hospital wants to take away the nurses’ right to be paid time and one half for overtime worked beyond eight hours. Under this proposal, overtime pay would only be eligible after 40 hours of work. Nearly 80 percent of our nurses work 36 hours or less and would be affected by this concession. Not only do they want to force nurses to work extra hours, they do not want to compensate them for it.

Cuts to benefit accruals: Management wants to cut the accrual for benefit time (holiday, vacation, etc.) by basing accruals on hours worked, as opposed to the current practice of basing it on scheduled hours. Their rationale is that this will force nurses to pick up more hours (as if the extra hours are actually available).

Mandatory shift cancellation: It wants the right to cancel any nurse’s shift at any time, which would mean every nurse would be a flex nurse.

After presenting these proposals, management also used the session— which was the same day as the vigil for safe staffing—to formally reject the bargaining unit’s staffing proposal out of hand; to reiterate its desire to continue the “temporary assignment” policy; and to state that mandatory overtime will be used as “part of their toolkit” for staffing the hospital.

Committee at Northeast Health Corp. discusses possible job actions, next steps
After recently completing their ninth session with management, the bargaining committee at Northeast Health Corp. could see that negotiations were beginning to wind down. And although they had reached a number of tentative agreements on non-economic issues, they are stalled on many other issues of greater importance. These issues include:

Cutting steps in half, plus NO cost of living increase: For all nurses below the top step, the hospital wants a two-year contract that would reduce full-step increases to half-step increases. Meanwhile, nurses at the top would receive a “one-time 2 percent lump sum payment.” The same scenario would play out in year two, with the exception being that nurses at the top would receive a 2 percent increase.

Pension plan: For nurses who are part of the “Legacy Beverly or Addison Pension Plans,” the hospital is asking that they contribute 3.5 percent (approximately $80 per week) out of pocket for that plan. Currently, there is no nurse contribution required.

Still working on RIF language, successor language: The committee has made small strides, but there is a long way to go on both issues.

With the contract expired, the members are free to explore their options on how to move ahead. Possibilities that were discussed at a recent union meeting included conducting informational picketing, leafleting and other similar job actions that will show their solidarity on these issues.

Nurses at Berkshire Medical refuse to be intimidated; reschedule strike authorization vote
The MNA bargaining unit at Berkshire Medical Center recently postponed a strike authorization vote that was scheduled for March 9. The vote will now take place on March 22 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (visit the MNA’s Web site for the outcome and updates).

The negotiation committee made the decision to reschedule the vote after hospital administrators began calling nurses away from their bedside duties in order to spread misinformation about the union, its negotiations and the strike authorization vote in an effort to create fear and to intimidate MNA nurses.

RNs at Mercy Medical Center work in solidarity to fight for PCTs, patient safety
The MNA members at Mercy Medical Center recently held a series of “safe staffing forums” in order to discuss the various difficulties they face when providing safe patient care under the medical center’s current conditions. These forums have resulted in Mercy nurses becoming more unified and more vocal in meetings, as well as in showing greater support to fellow nurses and unit assistants.

Members, in conjunction with MNA staff, are also strategizing and planning job actions that they hope will ultimately improve conditions. These actions include:

  • A petition drive
  • Regularly wearing black scrubs as a way of mourning the loss of the hospital’s PCTs and safe patient care
  • Wearing buttons that say, “Patients Need RNs and PCTs”
  • Filing more unsafe staffing forms