Berkshire Medical Center Nurses Seek Fair Compromise That Protects Patient Care Ahead of One-Day Unfair Labor Practice Strike
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – During negotiations on Wednesday, Berkshire Medical Center nurses attempted to reach a fair compromise with the hospital to avert a one-day unfair labor practice strike scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3.
On Wednesday just before 5 p.m., after management ended bargaining at about 4:20 p.m., BMC nurses filed an additional unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging BMC “has consistently refused to bargain or attempt to come to any agreement in relation to the mandatory subjects of staffing and workload.”
BMC nurses proposed new compromises during negotiations Wednesday on the key RN issues of safe patient care and health insurance. BMC declined to meet with nurses in person and refused once again to bargain over these mandatory subjects of bargaining. Instead, BMC reiterated their refusal to bargain over staffing and workload to address nurses’ need to hold BMC accountable for providing safe patient care.
“For more than a year, Berkshire Medical Center has refused to negotiate in good faith over workload, safe patient care and quality, affordable health insurance,” said Alex Neary, RN and Co-Chair of the MNA BMC Bargaining Committee. “On Wednesday, the hospital once again refused to compromise and agree to concrete improvements to patient care.”
The federal mediator ended the negotiation session on Wednesday after management told the mediator they were done and had nothing more to say. Nurses were willing to negotiate all night. The MNA committee told the mediator they are ready and willing to return to the table any time prior to the strike.
Patient Safety Vigil
When: Monday, Oct. 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Outside BMC on North Street
What: Berkshire Medical Center nurses and supporters gather in solidarity the evening before a planned one-day strike.
When: From 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3 to 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4
Where: BMC on North Street in Pittsfield; Hillcrest Cancer Center in Pittsfield and BMC in North Adams
BMC Again Refuses to Provide Health Data
BMC refused on Wednesday to provide the health insurance data nurses have requested in order to effectively negotiate over the issue. Nurses need this data to analyze the hospital’s self-insurance rates as part of a proposal to create an additional “employee +” or “employee plus children” health insurance option.
It is impossible to even interpret from management’s inflexible repeated health insurance proposal what nurses would pay each month for health insurance. Citing management’s months-long refusal to provide the information, RNs filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against BMC in August. Health insurance is a mandatory subject of bargaining under federal labor law.
For more information about negotiations and the potential one-day strike, click here or go to http://massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/10647.
BMC Nurses Locked Out
BMC is refusing to allow its nurses to care for their patients after the 24-hour strike ends on Wednesday. BMC announced their intention lock out the nurses and pay for replacement nurses from outside our community for four days as a consequence of the strike. The MNA has demanded information from the employer to counter evidence that BMC’s announced four-day lock out of the nurses following the 24-hour strike is retaliatory and therefore unlawful.
“We are ready to return to the hospital to care for our patients on Wednesday morning,” said Jody Stefanik, RN and a member of the MNA BMC Bargaining Committee. “Keeping us from our patients for an extra four days is the hospital’s sole decision. Instead of valuing its own nurses, BMC is valuing a contract with replacement nurses.”
History, academic studies and unionized registered nurses can all testify to the fact that replacement nurses cannot make up for the temporary loss of nurses who are specialized in their fields and knowledgeable of their patients and the hospital systems.
“Berkshire Medical Center nurses are irreplaceable,” said Jerri Jakacky, RN and Co-Chair of the MNA BMC Bargaining Committee. “We walk the halls of this hospital every day, many of us for decades. We have an intimate knowledge of our patients, our technology, our staff and our community. There is no way that nurses outside of this facility, who have never worked in this hospital can step in and provide safe patient care to our patients.”
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.