Mass. Labor Relations Commission Issues Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Against Cambridge Hospital for Bad Faith Bargaining & Violation of Nurses’ Union Rights
CHA Management Cut Off Negotiations with Nurses after Just Five Sessions, Broke State Labor Law By Declaring Impasse & Imposing Last Offer and Slashed Nurses Retiree Health Benefit
CAMBRIDGE, MA – The State Labor Relations Commission (SLRC) today issued a formal complaint against Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), citing the organization for bargaining in bad faith and depriving nurses of their union rights following CHA’s decision to prematurely cease negotiations, declare impasse and unilaterally slash nurses’ retiree health benefits. The SLRC will be scheduling hearings on the complaint issued against CHA.
“We are encouraged and vindicated that the labor commission has sided with the nurses and is holding the hospital accountable for its illegal and reprehensible behavior in its dealings with our members,” said Betty Kaloustian, co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) local bargaining unit, who has worked at the hospital for more than 36 years. “It is our hope that our management will finally do the right thing, restore our rights and get back to the table to negotiate a fair settlement.”
The registered nurses of the Cambridge Hospital campus of CHA, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, had filed an unfair labor practice charge with the SLRC against the hospital on July 1 for its refusal to engage in good faith negotiations with the nurses in their effort to reach agreement on a new union contract. A fact finding hearing before the SLRC was held on July 8.
The nurses were outraged by management’s recent decision to cease talks and declare impasse after only five sessions, while issuing their “last and final” offer on June 24, 2010, which included a 40 percent cut to the nurses’ retiree health benefit. The action is in direct violation of state labor law, which requires parties to move to mediation and fact finding prior to seeking a declaration of impasse.
According to Julie Pinkham, MNA executive director, “Our organization cannot accept such a flagrant refusal to honor the rule of law, and we intend to use every means at our disposal to ensure that a true negotiation takes place that respects the rights of these nurses. This will cause irreparable harm to labor relations at the CHA facilities at a time when a positive working relationship is of paramount importance. We cannot understand how the hospital board of trustees can condone such reckless behavior and we sincerely believe the CEO and the director of human resources, who implemented this strategy, should be held accountable for this egregious action.”
The MNA represents more than 400 nurses at Cambridge Hospital. Donna Mondeau, a long time nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the bargaining unit, believes the retiree health benefit was a promise made to the nurses, many of whom have worked for years at the public sector facility, forgoing higher wages they could have made at nearby private sector hospitals. They stayed on at Cambridge in large part due to the retiree health and pension benefits.
“The hospital’s action means that hundreds of our members, including 60 of our most senior nurses who have never paid into Medicare, could see their health benefits slashed and their retirement security severely compromised,” Mondeau explained. “It’s time they showed respect, not only for the nurses, but for the law.”
Negotiations for a new contract began in May, with a total of five sessions held to date. The contract expired on June 30, 2010.