|Strike Averted: Hospital, Nurses Union Reach Agreement|
|Staff Reports, |
07:55AM / Friday, June 15, 2018
|The nurses will not go on strike for a second time.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The registered nurses union and the hospital have tentatively settled on a contract, averting what would have been the second strike.
Bargaining for three consecutive days and stretching late into the night, Berkshire Medical Center and the local Massachusetts Nurses Association chapter settled on a five-year deal. That agreement needs to be ratified by a vote of the full 800 union members.
"We are incredibly proud of this agreement that reflects our priority of improving nurse staffing and patient care," said Alex Neary, co-chair of the union's bargaining unit.
"Berkshire Medical Center nurses care deeply about our patients and our community. We owe our success in reaching this agreement to powerful unity among nurses and our community."
The nurses had planned to go on strike Monday. That would have been the second strike since contract negotiations began in 2016.
"From the beginning of contract negotiations 45 sessions and 21 months ago, Berkshire Medical Center has sought an agreement with its registered nurses that was fair and reasonable for them and sustainable for the hospital and the community. We are pleased to report that after three marathon sessions on June 12, 13 and 14, the hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association have reached just such an agreement," wrote BMC spokesman Michael Leary in a statement released in the early hours of Friday morning.
"Having this contract finally settled is, of course, great news for the entire Berkshire community and all hospital employees. We appreciate the solid support that we received from our community and our employees during these challenging months. With the distraction and divisiveness of strike threats now gone, we look forward to returning our focus solely to delivering the high-quality patient care that our community rightly expects of us."
The last contract expired in September 2016 and the two sides have been working toward a deal since. The new contract will run from Oct. 1, 2016, until Sept. 30, 2021.
The two struggled to come to an agreement regarding staffing, which became the major obstacle to an agreement. The union has pushed for additional language to guarantee that there are enough nurses on at all times. The hospital has been hesitant about that, feeling the language proferred by the MNA was too restrictive. The two sides came to terms on other issues such as wages and health insurance but the staffing pieced continued to be a central point of disagreement.
According to the union, language was settled Thursday night that will keep charge nurses free of assignments, require the hospital to add additional nurses to a few specific units, will not "diminish the current staffing grids" and will require the hospital to post and recruit for unfilled jobs. The agreement also provides regular wage improvements.
In October, the nurses went on a one-day strike that was followed by a four-day lockout by the hospital. The nurses had issued another strike notice in February but withdrew it at the last minute as progress was seemingly made. After multiple negotiation sessions since, no settlement had been reached and the union again re-issued its notice for a one-day strike that had been planned for Monday, June 18.
With an agreement finally reached, Monday's strike has been called off.