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Congressman offers to mediate with hospital; hospital declines

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks during an Ag Summit at Mohawk Regional Trail High School, on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 in Buckland. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield File photo/PAUL FRANZ



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GREENFIELD — While Congressman Jim McGovern offered to host negotiations between Baystate Franklin Medical Center and its nurses, the hospital is balking at that proposal.

This comes a few days after the nurses union authorized the right to a one-day strike.

“While we appreciate Congressman McGovern’s interest in this issue, at this time, we plan to continue direct conversations with the union,” Baystate Health spokeswoman Shelly Hazlett said in a statement.

McGovern’s offer to help facilitate the bargaining was first announced by the Massachusetts Nurses Association around noon Monday. The Worcester Democrat’s willingness to get involved was confirmed by McGovern’s office Tuesday afternoon. But the hospital didn’t accept the congressman’s offer.

Now in the 16th month of negotiations, the two sides are at a standstill over negotiations regarding staffing concerns and health insurance.

McGovern is “committed to bringing both sides together to ensure a fair agreement is reached and will do all he can to help facilitate a positive outcome that honors the hard work of all our health care professionals and ensure that local families continue to get the lifesaving care they need,” his spokesman Abraham White said in a statement.

For months, McGovern has been in contact with the nurses and the hospital, trying to help them resolve the contract dispute, White added.

Currently, there are no scheduled negotiation sessions, but nurses union spokesman Joe Markman said the nurses hope to meet with the hospital as soon as possible, and certainly within the month.

“They really appreciate that the congressman would step up and host negotiations — hopefully it will result in some resolutions,” Markman said. “The nurses really want to avoid a strike, but they need patient care improvements and adequate health insurance.

“The bottom line is, the nurses voted to authorize the strike for improvements in those two key areas,” Markman said, speaking to demands over staffing numbers and health insurance. “That’s what they’ve told their bargaining committee to do.”

Less than a month ago, the nurses union had reported “conceptual progress” on some bargaining issues, although the nurses noted that they still had not seen eye-to-eye over their core issues, like health insurance and staffing.

That conceptual progress came on Cindy Russo’s last night as president of the hospital, after announcing her resignation in December.

Russo’s resignation came around the same time the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board found merit to a charge — naming Russo and other hospital officials — of interference with the security union as it formed. That case will go to U.S. District Court in May if it’s not settled before then.

McGovern’s offer isn’t the first time elected officials have stepped in during the past 15 months, although it is the first time they have offered to formally facilitate dialogue.

In June, with the nurse’s first and only strike to date during these negotiations, state Sens. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, urged continued dialogue in a letter they sent to Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack.

What followed was a one-day strike by the nurses and a three-day lockout by the hospital.

The strike and lockout led to the nurses filing several labor charges, including a claim that the hospital’s lockout was illegal.

Markman called McGovern’s initiative to host negotiations “significantly different” and is hopeful that his presence will bring an urgency to the matter, citing similar cases in Boston when the mayor stepped in.

Hazlett, the spokeswoman for Baystate Health, said in her statement that the hospital administrators were able to successfully reach fair agreements with the union’s bargaining units at Baystate Noble and Baystate Visiting Nurse Association, and they “look forward to do so with the MNA at Baystate Franklin.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264