Contract Talks Monday Between Berkshire Medical Center RNs and Management Ended With Management Refusing to Make Any Proposals
For the third straight negotiation session, management came to the table with no proposals to move the process forward and continues to refuse to provide information on health insurance data necessary for negotiations
In response, the BMC nurses will continue efforts to meet with BMC Trustees and are making public a detailed summary of more than 437 official reports of unsafe patient care conditions
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Contract talks held on Monday, Aug 28 between the Berkshire Medical Center nurses and management ended with management refusing to make any proposals.
For the third straight session, management failed to offer any proposals, or any modification of its positions to move the process forward despite the fact that the nurses have overwhelming voted to reject their last proposal and have taken an equally overwhelming vote to authorize a one day strike. For their part, the nurses have come to the table offering modifications to their position to help reach a settlement, but management refuses the very notion of attempts at compromise.
On Monday management reiterated their refusal to provide the data the nurses bargaining team repeatedly asked for so that we can negotiate over health insurance. The MNA has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Key sticking points include the nurses’ call for safer staffing and workloads with safer patient assignments and health insurance.
“We are concerned by our administration’s continued disregard for the negotiating process, and more importantly, for our documented patient safety incidents by their continued refusal to work with us to improve staffing to ensure the highest quality care,” said RN Alex Neary, Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee.
In light of the hospital management’s refusal to bargain, the nurses are continuing an effort to reach out to the BMC Board of Trustees and the general public to educate them about the issues, and to document how current staffing conditions and nurses’ excessive patient loads impact the safety and quality of patient care. To that end the nurses are releasing to the media today a detailed summary of 437 official signed reports filed by nurses of specific instances when they were required to accept staffing conditions and patient assignments that they believed jeopardized the safety of their patients.
The 437 unsafe staffing reports were filed by nurses working in nearly every unit/department in the hospital and on every shift from Oct. 1, 2015 through Aug. 21, 2017. The forms are a tool used by the nurses to document to management any time they are confronted with patient care conditions that in their professional judgment places their patients’ safety in jeopardy, and to register their objection to this potentially dangerous situation. The form provides management with specific details on the date, time, unit and a description of the unsafe situation, and documents how nursing administration responded to the nurses concerns. In nearly every instance, management’s response to the nurse filing the report was that they didn’t have help available, or were trying to locate a nurses or aide to provide relief. These reports are tangible evidence of a chronic lack of staff needed to keep patients safe.
“For years, we have been raising concerns and attempting to convince management to address what is a clear pattern of unsafe patient care incidents that we continue to document in real time with these unsafe staffing reports,” Neary explained. “We have brought these forms to nearly every meeting we have had with management at the hospital prior to negotiations and repeatedly during contract negotiations, yet management continues to dismiss our concerns and reject our proposals to address this problem. Since management refuses to acknowledge these situations, we are sharing them with the public so they can understand what we are dealing with, and hopefully, understand that they have the most to lose if management continues to ignore our call for staffing improvements. The nurses just want to be able to provide the safe and effective care their patients deserve.”
Background on Bargaining
BMC nurses are seeking a fair contract that first and foremost protects patient care by ensuring safe levels of nurse-to-patient assignments.
Another key issue for nurses is quality and affordable health insurance. BMC has proposed raising by 100 percent how much nurses contribute to their individual health insurance premiums. Nurses in BMC’s family health insurance plans already pay 40 to 70 percent more than managers.
Negotiations between BMC nurses and management began in September 2016. More than 20 bargaining sessions have been held to date, and now includes a federal mediator. On May 31, nurses overwhelmingly rejected the hospital’s “best and final” contract offer by a margin of 82 percent. Last month, nurses voted 83 percent to authorize a potential one-day strike. The 85 percent turnout was the highest ever for BMC nurses. The 16-member RN Bargaining Committee has the authority to call for a one-day strike and issue the 10-day strike notice required under federal law.
BMC nurses have also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Berkshire Medical Center which included threatening to retaliate against nurses if they engage in protected activity – a potential one-day strike – and refusing to provide health insurance data necessary for bargaining.