Nurse Leilani McCardle-Hover gives Pittsfield Co-op staff the petition, asking that it be passed along to bank president J. Jay Anderson.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The unionized nurses at Berkshire Medical Center will be voting again to give the bargaining committee the authority to call a one-day strike.
Berkshire Medical Center management and the hospital's Massachusetts Nurses Association chapter have been at an impasse in negotiations for a year and a half.
In October, a one-day strike was held, followed by a four-day lockout by BMC when the two sides couldn't reach a settlement.
Since then there have been three negotiation sessions with one more scheduled for Tuesday. The union says there has been some consensus on a few of the issues during those sessions, but not on the two major points of contention: staffing and health insurance.
Hospital officials say they believed that the "cooperative and collaborative tone" of the sessions meant progress toward a settlement.
The union has once again called for a vote to give the bargaining committee the authority to call another one-day strike should the committee feel it is needed. The vote doesn't necessarily mean there will be a strike, nor does it set a timeline.
On Monday, a group of nurses tried to get the hospital's board of trustees aware of the nurses' issues in hopes they'll urge management to settle.
"What we were hoping to accomplish is just trying to make contact with the board of trustees. They've been a little elusive. Those that we've been able to talk to seem receptive to the plight of the nurses. But what they need to understand is our management at BMC is not listening to us. We are not being heard," said Leilani McCardle-Hover, who works as a nurse in the critical care unit.
A half dozen or so nurses went to the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to give a petition with nearly 600 signatures to trustee Jerome Jay Anderson, president and chief operating office of the bank. But in the nurses' second attempt to hand deliver petitions to trustee members, Anderson was not available. Nor was John Bissell when the nurses attempted to deliver the petition to his work at Greylock Federal Credit Union in August.
The petition reads: "As trustees, you are stewards tasked with overseeing Berkshire Medical Center. BMC and the patient care that nurses and other staff provide are among our community's most valuable assets. Since BMC is funded primarily through public money — tax dollars and generous donations — trustees have an obligation to take the time and listen to the patient safety concerns being raised by the community and nurses. This is your job. Therefore, we are asking you to intervene NOW and convince BMC's administration to settle a fair contract with nurses. There can be no further delay. Patient safety is, and has always been, our No. 1 priority. Please demonstrate through your swift action that it is yours as well."
Since the October strike, three negotiation sessions were held — on Nov. 14, Nov. 28, and Dec. 20 — and consensus has been reached on workforce safety proposals. But, the union says the main sticking points hadn't been settled.
"We always go into bargaining with hopefulness that they will come to the table. That they'll enter the room, speak with us, and want to get down to business and finish this off," McCardle-Hover said of the next bargaining session.
"We're not asking for a whole lot. We're asking for charge nurses without a group. We're asking for them not to make staffing any worse than it is and quite honestly since we've come back from the strike things have gotten worse."
Brenda Cadorette, BMC's chief nursing officer, responded in a letter to nurses about the past three negotiating sessions. The first had focused on staff safety and security and the second on a review of actions taken to date along with discussion about concerns and suggestions, she said.
"As a result of that sharing of ideas, at the third post-strike session, we responded to the bargaining committee's safety proposals with some modified language that, after some discussion, the hospital and the union were able to find a way to resolve these important safety and security issues," she wrote, but added further on that "we have continuing disagreements about how the charge nurse function is addressed in the MNA collective bargaining agreement."
McCardle-Hover, who works in critical care, said there have been issues since the strike with paid time off and vacations being denied. And the floors remain short staffed. BMC, however, says it has cut its nurse vacancy rate by 45 percent with expectation of more improvement in that area.
Hospital officials also remain hopeful and agreed there has been progress made toward a settlement.
"Our positive experience in the three negotiating sessions since October led us to believe that we could work collaboratively with the union to resolve the remaining outstanding issues with our registered nurses," Cadorette wrote. "We were, therefore, both surprised and disappointed to learn that the MNA had scheduled votes on January 11 and 16 to authorize a second strike.
"We remain hopeful that the cooperative spirit that the bargaining committee showed at the most recent negotiating sessions will continue in future ones and will result in a fair and reasonable agreement that serves the interest of the registered nurses, the other hospital employees, the hospital itself and, most importantly, the community that we all, collectively, serve."
The contract talks have now entered their third calendar year. The previous contract expired in September 2016 and talks spanned all of 2017 — with the help of a federal mediator. The sides have had differences in opinions regarding staffing and health insurance.
The Massachusetts Nursing Association has withdrawn one of the multiple unfair labor practice charges it filed against Berkshire Medical Center. In July, the registered nurses' union filed a charge against a new absentee policy the hospital's administration had established. The claim was that there was a modification to the contract because the new policy was not negotiated. The union said the hospital broadened the circumstances around absences for discipline.
While much of the action has been taking place in Pittsfield, the registered nurses locked out by Berkshire Medical Center made a point of showing on Thursday that North Adams is affected, too. Nearly 100 members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and their supporters lined the sidewalk along Hospital Avenue chanting to the police and security presence blocking the driveway to BMC's North County campus.
Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center went 36 years without a labor strike. But that was until Tuesday. The local chapter of the Massachusetts Nursing Association took to the picket line on Tuesday after a year of contract negotiations have seemingly hit a wall. The union and supporters gathered just outside of the property line, forming two lines and holding signs, awaiting the nurses ending their shift at 7 a.m. to walk through.
The nurses will be silent on Tuesday morning when the nurses walk out on the job and head to the picket lines. But, on Monday night, the nurses were filled with songs and speeches as it held a vigil outside of Berkshire Medical Center prior to the start of the strike.
Berkshire Medical Center brass say they've taken proper precautions to make sure patient care is uninterrupted during the strike and subsequent lock out. "We fully expect that our operations will be as they are any other day. If you are a patient and you need to be here with us or you are scheduled to be here and it is elective, it will be no different than it was any other day," said Berkshire Health Systems President David Phelps during a briefing with the media on Tuesday.
A federal judge has denied Berkshire Medical Center's request for a temporary injunction to halt the one-day strike planned by the nursing union. The hospital had filed an emergency motion requesting the federal courts to put a stop to the strike. The hospital alleged that the union did not follow the proper grievance process as outlined in the contract. On Friday, Judge Mark G. Mastroianni denied that emergency request.
The hospital is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the nurses strike. Berkshire Medical Center filed for an injunction in federal court, claiming the Massachusetts Nursing Association had not followed contractual obligations prior to calling a strike. The union, however, asserts that the strike is legal and is continued to take to the picket lines on Tuesday.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association delivered a 10-day notice to hospital management on Friday notifying it of the local bargaining unit's intent to hold a one-day unfair labor practice strike beginning at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and running until 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
The hospital has fired back at the MNA with its own complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Berkshire Health Systems has filed a complaint alleging that the nursing union is not bargaining in good faith, and even "surface bargaining" - a term used to describe bargaining without trying to actually reach a settlement.
After hitting a stalemate in negotiations, the nursing union has released 437 "unsafe staffing forms," which document specific instances when nurses felt they needed more help. The local chapter of the Massachusetts Nursing Association, representing unioned nurses at Berkshire Medical Center, have been negotiations with Berkshire Health Systems on a new contract. Particularly, the nurses say they hope to a contractual agreement to bolster staffing. But, months ago the hospital had already put
BMC nurses are now making a pitch to get the hospital's Board of Trustees on their side. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has been in challenging contract negotiations with the hospital. After what call a fairly unproductive negotiating session on Tuesday, the nurses are attempting to meet with members of the Board of Trustees.
The nurses at BMC have filed a second complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against hospital administrators. The nurses are accusing Berkshire Medical Center leaderships, particularly Vice President of Human Resources Arthur Milano, of denying them information they deem is needed to negotiation health insurance. The nurses asked detailed financials surrounding the hospital's health insurance offer during negotiations.
Another negotiation session concluded Monday and nurses say little progress has been made toward a resolution. Mark Brodeur sits on the bargaining committee and on Monday night he said hospital officials rejected the change put forth by the nurses to leave charge nurses unassigned. The nurses have been trying to push for what they call "safe staffing" in the negotiations and contractually binding the hospital to provide what they see is adequate staff.
The nurses at Berkshire Medical Center have taken the second step toward a strike. The Massachusetts Nursing Association filed a notification to end the existing agreement. The contract currently in place prohibits a strike and while the contract had an expiration date of September 2016, the duration clauses continued that unless a 30-day notice from either side was made or a new contract was signed, the existing one remained in place.
In the middle of a strike authorization vote and the union filing charges against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Nursing Association and Berkshire Medical Center return to the bargaining table Thursday in hopes to come to an agreement on a new contract.
Berkshire Medical Center has presented what it says will be its "best and final offer" to settle a contract with the nursing union. A letter sent out by President David Phelps and Chief Operating Officer Diane Kelly was released on Wednesday outlining the hospital's offer. The Massachusetts Nurses Association and BMC have been at an impasse as the two sides try to negotiate a new three-year contract. The current one expired in September.
Nurses and supporters paced back and forth along North Street and Wahconah, holding signs, chanting "if we're out here, something is wrong in there." On the otherside of those walls, the administration is reviewing data showing Berkshire Medical Center ranking in the top when it comes to patient safety and preparing a forum to celebrate those numbers with employees. Outside, the nurses chant that the staffing levels are unsafe. Inside, a staffing office is reviewing the personnel on hand to m
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As a now retired, 80+ RN, whose husband was hospitalized recently, I can assure everyone that the nurses do give excellent care, but are dangerously short staffed. They give excellent patient care, but only have time for essentials. They have no time for very the detailed education that is necessary in this demographic, and no time to rub backs or other comfort measures that they used to be able to give to frightened patients.
Nurses give up lunch breaks, dinner breaks, even time to deal with normal bodily functions.
Yes, they give great care, but at what cost to their health and well being?
More staff is urgently needed, and the attitude of BHS/MBC administration is pure corporate greed. Just look at the increasing numbers of administrators! When my husband and I, who stayed with him throughout his hospitalization, made it known that the hospital had dangerously low staffing, guess what happened? On the day of discharge, my husband was visited by the VP of Patient Care Excellence! If staffing was so great, in the eyes of administration, why would they need a VP of Patient Care Excellence. OH, yes, he stayed all of one minute with my husband and then he had "an important meeting to attend." When a follow up call was made to our home, the next day the woman, who called, heard about 45 seconds of my husband's reply to her, and then "she had an important meeting to attend." Again, corporate greed includes non profit as well as for profit corporations.
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