The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center (BFMC) have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract, averting a one-day strike that was planned for Monday, Feb. 10. The pact provides protections the nurses had sought to prevent the use of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing at the hospital. It also includes improvements to the nurses’ health insurance benefit and will grant the nurses pay raises.
The settlement was reached during negotiations held Thursday and Friday.
“We are thrilled to have finally reached an agreement that will provide the protections we need to ensure our patients receive the care they have come to expect from the nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” said Linda Judd, a longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United local bargaining unit at BFMC. “This is an agreement where everybody wins: our patients, our nurses, our employer and our community”
Judd was quick to acknowledge all the support the nurses received from the communities throughout Franklin County in reaching this hard-fought victory that stretched over more than two years and 44 negotiating sessions.
“In reaching this settlement it is important to recognize all those in our community, including thousands of individual residents, as well as local public officials, who stood with the nurses through this long struggle. We also want to thank State Senator Stanley Rosenberg for hosting these negotiations over the last two days, with a special thanks to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman James McGovern, who spearheaded the effort to get the parties together this week, and without whom we would not have achieved this resolution.”
Highlights of the Tentative Agreement
The new contract covers five years, and expires on Dec. 31, 2016. Highlights of the agreement include:
• Baystate withdrew its proposal to eliminate “daily overtime.” Baystate’s call for this concession, where they would pay overtime only after 40 hours worked was the key sticking point in the talks. Instead the parties agreed to maintain the nurses’ current benefit, with the addition of a one-hour grace period for daily overtime. This means that any work that is performed beyond one hour after the end of a nurse’s scheduled shift triggers payment of time and one half back to the end of the nurse’s scheduled shift; and in all cases, nurses have the protected right to refuse to work over time if he/she feels this would jeopardize the care of his/her patients.
• Baystate has agreed to clear language in the contract obligating Baystate to fully comply with the Massachusetts state law banning mandatory overtime. This law prohibits hospitals from using the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing and guarantees that no nurse can be required to work beyond their scheduled shift. The hospital had previously refused to provide a contractual guarantee to adhere to the law, which, in combination with their demand for a concession on overtime pay, led the nurses to make a stand and strike over this important patient safety issue.
• An increase in the share of the family health insurance premium that Baystate pays from the current 70 percent of premium to 75 percent of premium.
• Wages and Bonuses: A 4 percent across the board raise for 2014 and an additional 1 percent across the board pay hike each year in 2015 and 2016. In addition nurses will receive bonuses upon ratification of the agreement of $2,000 for nurses who work 36 hours or more; $1,500 for nurses who work 24 hours or more and $1,000 for nurses who work less than 24 hours per week.
The nurses had announced their plan to conduct a one-day unfair labor practice strike on Monday, Feb. 10, in direct response to Baystate Health’s illegal declaration of impasse two weeks ago and its plan to implement its last offer, which would eliminate the nurses overtime benefit. As part of the settlement, Baystate agreed to rescind its declaration of impasse and the nurses agreed to withdraw a number of charges they had filed with the National Labor Relations Board that arose out of this dispute.
There has been an outpouring of support for nurses’ collective bargaining rights over the last year. At the Democratic State Convention held in Springfield last summer, the convention delegates unanimously passed a resolution calling on Baystate to conduct good faith negotiations with the MNA/NNU nurses and to come to a fair agreement. The Greenfield City Council passed a similar resolution last year. Thousands of Franklin County residents had signed a petition of support for the Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and delegations of community supporters and elected officials had called on Baystate to avoid further conflict and settle a fair contract with the nurses at BFMC.
The nurses and a growing coalition of community members and leaders have also been working together on a campaign to preserve and expand vital health care services at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. In concluding their contract negotiations today, the nurses pledged their continued commitment to this effort.
“The nurses appreciate the deep and broad community and political support that has been shown across Franklin County,” said Donna Stern, RN, a nurse at the facility and co-chair of the bargaining unit. “And as committed caregivers and members of this community, we look forward to continuing our efforts to work with our community allies to ensure patients have access to the full range of services they need right here in Franklin County.”