News & Events

BI Anna Jaques Hospital RNs Vote to Ratify New Three-Year Contract to Recruit and Retain the Staff Needed to Ensure Quality Patient Care

NEWBURYPORT, MA – The registered nurses at Beth Israel Lahey Anna Jacques Hospital (AJH) yesterday cast an overwhelming vote to ratify a new three-year contract that will provide significant improvements in wages and benefits, as well as long sought improvements in staffing and nurses’ working conditions that will allow the hospital to recruit and retain the staff needed to ensure the best possible care to patients. The contract agreement followed more than six months of negotiations and will cover 350 registered nurses who work at the Newburyport-based facility. 

“This was an enormous achievement that recognizes the nurses at AJH for their dedication and professionalism,” explained Eileen Ryan, RN, a nurse on the hospital’s ambulatory care unit and co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s (MNA) local bargaining unit for the nurses.  “We presented management with 25 proposals which essentially created a new and improved contract. This could never have happened if we didn’t have the support, encouragement, and participation of our 350 nurses. During this time, we also have been fortified by the support from all hospital caregivers and our community. The common theme between hospital staff members and the community is that we all care about our hospital, and we all share a willingness to work to make it stronger.” 

In early February, community leaders submitted petitions with more than 1,200 signatures to hospital administrators from community members in support of the nurses’ cause, a development, along with the nurses earlier 99 percent vote to authorize a strike if needed, that the nurses credit with moving the negotiations in a more positive direction. 

Highlights of the tentative agreement include:

  • Competitive wage increases, as the AJH nurses were the lowest paid nurses prior to the settlement. The new contract includes wage increases ranging from 10.5% up to 65% in the first 12 months of the new agreement.  
  • New Weekend Incentive Program.  To entice better staffing on weekend shifts the contract includes a new program that compensates nurses who agree to work weekend shifts with an additional stipend for covering those shifts.  Nurses who commit to working two 12-hour shifts over a weekend will receive a stipend of $480 in addition to their regular rate of pay, and those committing to three shifts will receive an additional $720.  The pact also includes increases to a number of shift differentials including those for nurses with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing, nurses working as charge nurses on the floor, nurses who are on call and for those precepting less experienced staff.
  • Hospital staffing improvements.  The pact includes improvements to staffing levels in the hospital’s intensive care unit to ensure that AJH complies with the state’s ICU staffing law.  It also codifies and allows the union to enforce current staffing levels for each area of the hospital, and prevents any reductions in those staffing levels, while affirming that the hospital cannot assign mandatory overtime in keeping with the state law prohibiting the practice.  Finally, the contract creates new positions for “meal break” nurses who are available to allow nurses to take their legally required meal breaks.  Last year the Attorney General cited and fined the hospital based on nurses’ complaints of chronic inability to take breaks even during shifts longer than 12 hours. The agreement also provides incentives for per diem RNs (who work shift to shift) to make ongoing commitments of a certain number of shifts per six week period. Finally, the agreement includes nurses who wish to pick up extra shifts a bonus for doing so, a move designed to ensure better staffing in times of need. 
  • Improvements to nurses’ benefit package.  The agreement includes improvements to the nurses earned time benefit, retirement benefit, reimbursement for profession-related tuition costs and health insurance benefits. 

“This contract will further enable nurses to provide safe and personalized healthcare the way they know how to provide.” added Margaret Mirecki, RN, who works on the hospital’s telemetry unit and serves as co-chair of the nurses’ MNA local bargaining unit.  “We look forward to returning to a new-found sense of pride in our hospital and how we are valued and perceived. It wasn’t an easy road to get there, but we are committed to improving patient care and, with this new contract, to retaining the talented nurses we have, while enticing others to join our team.  We applaud our co-workers who have weathered the storm, and stayed at AJH to see this contract through.”


Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 25,000 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.