NARH Nurses Ratify Contract
RNs Able to Protect the Quality of Patient Care and Their Quality of Life
Nurses to Continue the Struggle to Protect Quality Care
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.—The Registered Nurses of North Adams Regional Hospital today ratified a two-year contract. A tentative agreement was reached on September 2, 2010 that maintains important patient care protections in the nurses’ contract, while also preserving important rights and benefits the hospital wanted to take away from the nurses. The agreement averted a strike, ending nearly nine months of contentious negotiations.
The nurses expressed thanks to the community that rallied behind them, which was key to the nurses’ achieving a fair settlement. “We especially want to thank the community for their overwhelming support. When we started this process we knew the community appreciated the care we provide, but as we went through negotiations it was very heartening to have so many neighbors and acquaintances offer their best wishes and support,” said bargaining unit Chair Ruth O’Hearn, RN. “Management came to the table with over one hundred concessionary demands and a very negative attitude that was perpetuated by the “union avoidance” consultant they brought in from Ohio to conduct their negotiations. Their demands would have left us with little or no protection and would have made it impossible for us to stand up as advocates for our patients. Our members stood very strong and said these concessions were unacceptable.”
The RNS retained the ability to refuse overtime if they are exhausted or too ill to provide safe patient care. The nurses also defended and protected language in the contract that states the hospital will not admit patients unless they have the staff to provide quality care.
The quality of life issues were very important to the nurses according to unit Co-Chair Mary McConnell, RN “We knew that if management were able to prevail we would have had little or no control over our lives. We were able to retain our rights on mandatory overtime and other issues pertaining to scheduling. This was very important to us.”
Throughout the long negotiation process, the nurses never lost sight of the hospital’s difficult financial position. They neither asked for, nor received, any economic improvements in the contract. The hospital has applied for Critical Access Hospital status and has stated that they are planning to file for bankruptcy protection within the next year. NARH also is in merger/affiliation negotiations with Berkshire Medical Center. “Because of all the issues, we understand that this was just a step in keeping this hospital as the vital community resource it is. We pledge to the community that we will continue to fight for the highest quality of health care, for our hospital, for our community, and for ourselves. As we go forward we will join with others in the community to guarantee all voices are heard when it comes to the future of this vital community resource,” said O’Hearn.