News & Events

Great Story in Today’s Salem Evening News About the Upcoming Picket by Northeast Health Corp. Nurses

Nurses to picket at Beverly Hospital
Union members fear sale could impact jobs

By Paul Leighton
Staff writer
The Salem News
Thu Jun 09, 2011, 05:05 AM EDT

BEVERLY — Saying the expected sale of Beverly Hospital could impact their jobs, union nurses have voted to picket outside the hospital next week.

The nurses said they have organized the "informational picketing" because current hospital management has refused to guarantee that a new owner would honor their union contract.

Without that written assurance, union leaders said, a new owner could come in and lay off nurses or cut their pay and benefits.

"They can say, ‘We don’t like your pay scale, you’ve got too many holidays, we’re going to take away your pension,’" said Marie Freeman, a registered nurse and co-chairwoman of the union’s Beverly Hospital bargaining unit. "They can do just about whatever they want if we don’t have that language."

Beverly Hospital officials declined to comment for this story.

Northeast Health System, Beverly Hospital’s parent company, has been in merger discussions with Lahey Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess, Steward Health Care System and Vanguard Health Systems. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

In the meantime, the nurses union has been negotiating a new contract with management for the last six months. The union, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, represents nearly 700 registered nurses at Beverly Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and Beverly Hospital at Danvers. The nurses are working under the terms of a one-year contract that expired in January.

Union leaders said management has offered no cost-of-living raises while asking nurses to pay nearly $80 per week toward their retirement plans. Management also wants to restrict nurses’ "bumping rights" in the case of layoffs, they said.

But union leaders said the "key sticking point" is management’s refusal to include "successor language" in the contract that would require new owners to honor the terms of their contract.

"Every single thing will be lost if we don’t get the successorship," said Sue Hall, the union’s grievance chairwoman. "It really puts all of our nurses at risk to lose jobs and lose money."

Freeman said nurses are also concerned that patient safety will be affected.

In a press release, union leaders accused hospital management of hiring a "union-busting" law firm to help with negotiations and said management should be "embarrassed" by its negotiating stance. They called management’s contract offer "outrageous" and "ludicrous."

Northeast Health System is considering proposals from nonprofits Lahey Clinic and Beth Israel Deaconess and from for-profit companies Steward Health Care System and Vanguard Health Systems. Northeast Health System CEO Kenneth Hanover has said a decision is expected by the end of June.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association sent hospital management a notice on June 3 announcing the plan to picket on June 15. The picketing is scheduled to take place from 2 to 5 p.m. outside Beverly Hospital and Addison-Gilbert Hospital.

The next negotiating session is scheduled for June 21.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978.338.2675, 978.338.2675 or