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WWLP: Nurses picket for union contracts

Nurses picket for union contracts

Dozens picket outside of Cooley Dickinson Hospital

  • Anaridis Rodriguez

Northampton, Mass (WWLP) – Registered nurses at Cooley Dickinson Hospital are fighting to keep their contracts.

Their contract expired in January but they have yet to reach a compromise with hospital management.

"I’m a little frustrated. I think that, I wish things would have moved along more than they have as far as our contract negotiations go," said Maria Etkin, a registered nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Etkin has been working for Cooley Dickinson Hospital for 24 years and was one of the dozens of registered nurses who took their contract fight to the streets. Registered nurses are asking hospital officials for a safe staffing to patient ratio, a successor clause that would ensure any agreement reached would remain in place, and a defined pension plan for both tenured nurses and newly registered.

"We need a pension, a defined benefit pension plan that is equal for all nurses not just some that happen to be here and others that are going to be hired into the union," said Kathy Wilkins-Carmody, who has been working for Cooley Dickinson for 8 years.

Hospital management wants to offer newly registered nurses a 403B plan which closely mirrors a 401K. They would not be eligible for defined benefit plans where payouts are determined by length of employment, instead of the return of invested funds.

"We also need to make sure the care is affordable for our community and that requires us to makes some adjustments and benefits including with the pension," said Dianne Cutillo, director of public affairs for the hospital.

Cooley Dickinson hospital is in affiliation discussions with Baystate Medical Center, Vanguard Health and Mass. General. But if their negotiations with the registered nurses don’t come to a compromise, they say the merge could cause them to lose more than their pensions.

"We would lose everything. We would our salaries, we would lose absolutely everything between the pages. What are current wages are, what our vacation time is, what our pension is, I mean everything. And that’s a scary, that’s scary," said Wilkins-Carmody.

The registered nurses and hospital officials are set to meet for a negotiating session Thursday night.