PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Despite Berkshire Medical Center’s enormous profitability, for 16 months hospital administrators have refused to improve nurse staffing, ensure safe patient care or provide affordable health insurance, prompting registered nurses to vote overwhelmingly a second time on Tuesday to authorize a potential one-day strike.
Nurses voted 82 percent to authorize the BMC RN Bargaining Committee to call for a one-day strike if necessary. No strike is scheduled at this point. If a strike were to be called by the committee, nurses would be required by law to provide a 10-day notice to the hospital.
“Our community and our patients need to be able to hold Berkshire Medical Center accountable for providing safe patient care at all times,” said Alex Neary, Co-Chair of the BMC RN Bargaining Committee. “We brought our concerns to the public with a one-day strike in October and since then hospital administrators have refused to move on our key issues. This is completely unacceptable. It is why today nurses have sent a clear message to BMC: Negotiate a fair contract that protects our patients!”
Berkshire Medical Center is highly profitable. Over the last five years, BMC has made a profit of more than $207 million, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis. In 2016 alone, BMC posted a profit of $47.2 million. That is a margin of 9.7% – more than three times the state and regional averages of 3%, making it a real outlier among profitable hospitals. Read the CHIA BMC data here.
“The number one priority of a hospital should be to provide safe, quality patient care,” said Gerri Jakacky, Co-Chair of the BMC RN Bargaining Committee. “Our nurses have for years identified problems, and for years BMC has ignored our concerns. Why won’t hospital administrators take the money they get from the public and use it to ensure the public is safe rather than spend it on forcing nurses to strike and locking them out of their own hospital for days afterward? Our proposals to eliminate or limit patient assignments for charge nurses and maintain nurse staffing at the hospital’s own current level are reasonable ways to ensure patient safety.”
The nearly 800 BMC nurses have been negotiating a new contract since September 2016. Nurses held a one-day strike on October 3 and were then locked out of the hospital by BMC management for four additional days. The next bargaining session is scheduled for January 25. Negotiations include a federal mediator.
Since the nurses’ one-day strike they have taken numerous public actions, including holding additional informational pickets, rallies, sign-holding in Park Square and the delivery of a petition to Berkshire Health Systems trustees calling on them to take swift action.
There have been four bargaining sessions since the strike. During the last session on January 9, nurses spent the day attempting to negotiate staffing improvements. Unfortunately, management offered a counter proposal that did not include actual improvements: No charge without an assignment or a limited assignment, and management retaining the right to cut staffing grids.
For more details on negotiations go to http://massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/10764 or contact Joe Markman at email@example.com.