Berkshire VNA nurses and healthcare professionals have had tremendous community support during their first contract negotiations, and reached a tentative contract agreement December 15
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The nurses and healthcare professionals of the Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association (BVNA), represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), reached a tentative agreement on December 15 with Berkshire Health Systems, agreeing on contract terms that give BVNA clinicians a wage step scale and tackle some productivity issues to help with recruitment and retention and address patient care access problems.
The agreement is tentative until BVNA clinicians represented by the MNA can review the terms this week. A vote to ratify the contract is scheduled for December 22.
“We have fought long and hard for this contract because we care deeply about our patients and their ability to receive high-quality homecare throughout Berkshire County,” said Tamaryn Clowdus, physical therapist, and Co-Chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at Berkshire VNA. “Our collective strength as union nurses and healthcare professionals, along with the community and our labor supporters, was essential in helping us reach an agreement. We are pleased to have secured a wage step scale, productivity improvements, and many other contract provisions that will benefit clinicians and patients for years to come.”
Berkshire VNA clinicians had been negotiating their first contract after initially forming a union two years ago. The tentative agreement followed a December 4 informational picket well-attended by community supporters. The informational picket was the latest in a series of actions by BVNA nurses and healthcare professionals. In October, the clinicians delivered a petition to BHS CEO Darlene M. Rodowicz emphasizing the fact that the BVNA has experienced a significant loss of permanent staff since at least December 2021, destabilizing homecare service access and posing a serious risk to continuity of patient care.
In May, BVNA nurses and healthcare professionals held a virtual community forum on the changing state of home care. In April, they delivered a petition signed by community members urging BHS to move quickly to settle a fair contract. BVNA registered nurses, MSWs, and physical, occupational and speech therapists joined MNA in December 2021 following an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.
The medical needs of Berkshire VNA patients are varied and complex, including post-surgical conditions such as total hip or total knee replacements; stroke; Parkinson’s Disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); cardiopulmonary conditions; amputations; and post-trauma care (breaks, fractures). In recent years, many hospital-based services for patients have shifted to in-home services, making VNAs and their caregivers an essential and ever-expanding part of the healthcare system. Hospitals now move patients back home faster, leading to a dramatic increase in the size and complexity of the region’s at-home patient population.
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.