PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The registered nurses of Berkshire Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will hold a one-day strike on Tuesday, Feb. 27 unless hospital executives agree to a fair contract that protects and improves the quality of nurse staffing and patient care.
Nurses gave the hospital more than the 10 days’ notice required by law and ample opportunity to negotiate, with another bargaining session scheduled for February 13. The notice was issued at the end of bargaining on February 8. During that session, the sixth since the nurses’ one-day strike in October, management refused to make any agreements that would commit the hospital to maintaining current levels of RN staffing or make any improvements.
“Nurses should never be forced to go on strike to protect patient care,” said Alex Neary, RN and Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. “The hospital has told us they will not give up the right to make staffing worse if they want to. This is unacceptable to us. Our nurses and our community have empowered us to stand up for what is right. We hope management will make the right decision and reach a settlement.”
BMC RN’s three-part staffing solution:
- Management will not diminish current nurse staffing grids;
- Charge nurses (with specific exceptions) will not have patient assignments or limited assignments;
- Management will agree to post and recruit for positions to meet contractual obligations.
Charge nurses need to be able to effectively coordinate care and assist other nurses. If their patient assignments are eliminated or reduced but their fellow nurses have even heavier patient assignments, the problems we have identified for years will remain.
Management’s counterproposals have fallen short: They want to retain unilateral authority to make staffing worse. Their proposed charge nurse language does not create new commitments on the issue. And although they say they have posted and recruited for positions over the past year, they will not commit to doing so in contract language.
BMC also wants to double the health insurance premium costs for hundreds of our nurses on individual plans. Many nurses on family plans already pay 40 to 70 percent more for health insurance than their managers.
There is no reason Berkshire Medical Center cannot agree to a fair contract, especially considering its enormous profits. 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 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 February 13. Negotiations include a federal mediator.
For more details on negotiations go to http://massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/10773 or contact Joe Markman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.