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BMC Nurses Reject Hospital's 'Best and Final' Offer

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The registered nurses at Berkshire Medical Center have rejected the hospital's "best and final offer."
 
The union put the hospital's offer to a member vote on Wednesday and the nurses rejected the offer by an overwhelming margin. Massachusetts Nursing Association spokesman  David Schildmeier said 82 percent of the Berkshire Medical Center chapter voted against the offer.
 
"Tonight an overwhelming majority of MNA members at Berkshire Medical Center voted to reject management's 'best and final' offer by a margin of 82 percent and also with an absolute majority of all eligible union members casting votes to reject. There was record turnout among our members," Schildmeier said Wednesday night.
 
"The vote is a call for management to return to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith over such important issues as nurse workload, safe staffing and health insurance for health-care workers."
 
BMC spokesman Michael Leary issued a short statement Wednesday night saying the administration was pleased to see the contract proposal go to a vote but wished the outcome was different.
 
"We are naturally disappointed in the outcome of today's ratification vote, but we thank our nurses for taking this to a vote," Leary said Wednesday night.
 
The Massachusetts Nurses Association has been at odds with hospital administration over a new three-year contract. The last contract expired in September and both sides have been attempting to reach agreement on a new one. 
 
However, the two sides hit roadblocks. In particular, the union is looking to put staffing requirements into the contract to ensure "safe staffing." The union says there have been hundreds instances of nurses working without adequate help, and with too many patients. The MNA wanted specific staffing ratios embedded in the contract to ensure shifts are covered properly.
 
The hospital didn't want those ratios in the contract because officials felt it took away flexibility. The hospital said it uses guidelines laid out by the American Nurses Association and has a staffing office constantly reviews the numbers of patients, levels of sickness, and other factors on an hourly basis and makes staffing adjustments as needed. 
 
The hospital opposed the ratio saying it limits the ability to take a "team approach" to staffing by allowing employees from various disciplines to be moved around to ensure sufficient care. 
 
In February, the nurses union held an educational picket outside of the hospital. Hundreds of nurses paced the sidewalks along Wahconah and North Street, chanting, and rallying support.
 
By then, things were already testy between the two sides, with each posing competing statements. The hospital said the union was pushing staffing ratios into contracts across the state and that the issue wasn't in response to local conditions. The nurses claimed the hospital was boasting of paid-for safety awards to justify rejecting the ratios. Both sides refuted the other's claims and both sides said the other wasn't negotiating in good faith.
 
A federal mediator was brought in to assist the negotiations.
 
The two sides went back to the bargaining table and in May the hospital released what it called the  "best and final offer." That was coupled with their own website outlining their viewpoint.
 
A summary of the contract from the hospital calls for continuing its current staffing guidelines with increased participation from nursing staff, a 10 percent pay raise over three years — consisting of general wage increases of 1 percent in year one and two and 2 percent in year three, step increases of 2 percent, and lump sum of 2 percent for those at the top of the scale — retroactive lump sum of raises if the agreement is reached by the end of the month, and increasing the evening and night differential premiums.
 
"We have always offered our nurses a fair and reasonable financial package and have proposed adjustments this year to keep it so. However, we have now concluded that we cannot reach that appropriate result by continuing the pattern of session after session with the MNA without meaningful progress. This is especially so considering the costs, distraction, and discord generated by these time consuming and often unproductive sessions," reads a letter the hospital released in May.
 
"At this point, we believe we have exhausted discussion on all proposals from both sides of the table. Accordingly, we have given the MNA our best and final offer to settle the contract."
 
The union said that "threw a wrench" into negotiations. That offer did not include staffing changes and MNA spokesman Joe Markman said at the time, "staffing is still their No. 1 issue and it needs to be addressed."
 
A few days after the hospital issued its offer, the union countered with a proposal. That proposal created more registered nursing positions and had restrictions on how often the nurses rotated shifts. The nurses also delivered a petition to CEO David Phelps calling for a new agreement.
 
On May 18, the MNA said the administration had not agreed to return to the table to discuss the union's proposal.

Tags: BMC,   contract negotiations,   MNA,   nurses,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: Dc. 6-12

Enjoy sixteen different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the on First Friday Artswalk and all month long! In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.

The Office of Cultural Development will host its 5th annual Wreath Art Auction at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts during the First Friday festivities. Almost 50 hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind wreaths, kissing balls and table pieces will be available for purchase and auction following the lighting of the tree in Park Square. Enjoy music and refreshments at a preview reception starting at 5 p.m., followed by a live auction at 6:30 p.m. Grab-and-go options will be available. All funds raised at this event go to the South Congregational Church Food Pantry. Admission at the door is $10, or purchase tickets in advance at the Lichtenstein Center or by emailing slemme@cityofpittsfield.org. 

These events coincide with Downtown Pittsfield's 2nd annual Festive Frolic
, running on Friday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Events include a North Pole Pub Crawl, snowman story time, ornament making, glow-in-the-dark Jingle Bell Rock, a craft fair, carolers, holiday lights, shopping opportunities and more!
 

  MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE

 
Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company presents local singer-songwriters Billy Keane and Matt Cusson, who will join forces to kick off the season right, with holiday songs and lots of fun. 7 p.m. $20-$25. 
Plus...  
FRI North Pole Pub Crawl in Downtown Pittsfield FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow FRI Yule Jam at Hancock Shaker Village | FRI Grahm Sturz at Hotel on North | FRI JB's Acoustic Gravel at PortSmitt's | FRI Patient Zero Records Show at Crossroads | FRI Legacy at The A | SAT Dust Bowl Faeries at The Whitney | SAT Holidays Around the World Dinner at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Mike McMann at Proprietor's Lodge | SUN Service of Lessons & Carols at Hancock Shaker Village | MON Cabaret Workshop Performance at Berkshire Music School | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Vinyl Soul Night at Thistle & Mirth | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Holiday Lights at Arrowhead | THU Marc Black's History of the '50s & '60s at Berkshire Athenaeum | THU The Picky B's at Mission

  FAMILY FRIENDLY

SAT Visit with Santa at The Beacon Cinema
 
 
Visit with Santa at the Beacon Cinema as part of the Downtown Pittsfield Festive Frolic! This is a family event where children can have their photo taken with Santa by a professional photographer! In exchange, please donate a brand-new, unwrapped item to the Berkshire Community Action Council's Warm Clothing Program. See website for list of needed itemsIf you are unable to bring an item, a donation of $5 will be accepted by BCAC volunteers. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Plus...
FRI WeeMuse Adventures at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI Screening of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at Berkshire Museum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at 18 Degrees SAT Festive Frolic Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum SAT WeeMuse Art Lab at Berkshire Museum SAT FREE Kids' Crafts at Peace Train Tees SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum | SAT Make Holiday Ornaments at Berkshire Paint & Sip SAT We Can Be Heroes at Berkshire Museum SAT-SUN Brunch with Santa at Hancock Shaker Village SAT-SUN Albany Berkshire Ballet's The Nutcracker at Barrington Stage SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum SUN Billy Budd in the Breadbox Audio Book Launch at Arrowhead | SUN Gingerbread House Decorating Party at Dottie's MON Tiny Tots Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Dungeons & Dragons at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE WeeMuse Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Graphic Novel Book Club at Berkshire Athenaeum WED WeeMuse Parent/Child STEM at Berkshire Museum THU Preschool Play & Learn at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Lego Club at Berkshire Athenaeum

  WELLNESS

SUN Restorative Yoga w/CBD Salve at BYDF
Join Amanda Marsh for a Restorative Yoga with CBD class at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness. You will be guided into a deeply relaxing restorative yoga flow, blending supported yoga postures, breathing techniques, and cannabis-infused salve to encourage letting go fully into each yoga posture. 5:30-7 p.m. $25 for the class and $65 for the class and salve. 
Plus...
FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Running Center | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Family YMCA | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness FRI-THU Various Classes at Radiance Yoga | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Salsa FRI-THU Various Classes at Pilates Fit SUN Restorative Yoga w/Massage at Radiance Yoga | MON Common Yoga at Zion Lutheran Church | MON Let's Keep It Moving at Knesset Israel

  COMMUNITY

SAT+ A Christmas Carol at The Colonial Theatre
Revel in the joy and redemptive power of A Christmas Carol, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, an infamous miser who is shown the error of his ways and reformed by four spirits. Journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story filled with holiday carols and the wonderment of the season. $29/$39. A sensory-friendly performance will be held held on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Plus...
FRI-SUN Gingerbread House Contest at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Holiday Craft Fair, Cookie Walk & Tag Sale at Zion Lutheran Church | SAT Lyme Alliance Meeting at Berkshire Athenaeum SAT-SUN Brunch with Santa at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT-SUN Cop on Top 10th Anniversary at Walmart SAT-SUN Albany Berkshire Ballet's The Nutcracker at Barrington Stage | SUN Brunch w/Genna & Jess at Dottie's | SUN Gingerbread House Decorating Party at Dottie's | SUN Jazz Brunch at Hotel on North | SUN Berkshire Concert Choir at Berkshire Museum | SUN Hilltown Choral Society Holiday Concert at Zion Lutheran Church | SUN FREE Eagles Band Holiday Concert at First United Methodist | SUN Service of Lessons & Carols at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Open Swim at Gladys Allen Brigham Center | THU Holiday Lights at Arrowhead | THU Holiday Market at Dottie's

  LEARNING

TUE Paint "Holiday Pittsfield Park" at Paint & Sip
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