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BFMC nurses to host community forum next week; contract agreement still not reached

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and hospital administrators once again made no progress in their latest contract talk Thursday, and now the union is focusing on a community forum it will hold next week.

The forum — which will take place on Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Greenfield High School — is billed as a chance for the public “to share their concerns and discuss actions community members can take to ensure the continuation of BFMC as a full-service community hospital, providing a full range of services close to home,” according to a union-issued release.

Union representatives said the forum is less about gaining public support for the nurses’ contract positions, and more about looking at what residents want their hospital to look like in the coming months and years.

“We believe that the people of this community have the right to have a say in the decisions that will reduce health disparities, promote community wellness and improve access to care in our community at our hospital,” said Linda Judd, co-chair of the local union, in a prepared statement.

Greenfield Town Councilor Karen Renaud will serve as moderator for the forum, according to the release.

Hospital officials offered no comment on the upcoming forum or the latest contract negotiation session — saying only that no agreements were reached and that the two sides would meet again on April 24.

Thursday’s contract talk was the 32nd between nurses and hospital officials, and the first since December.

Donna Stern, the union’s co-chair, said that hospital officials did not change their stances on the overtime policy — which has been the key issue keeping the sides from agreement.

Citing a need to cut costs, the hospital wants to change the overtime pay model to a weekly model — where nurses would receive time-and-a-half pay beginning with their 41st hour.

Nurses, who must sometimes cover shifts and work up to 16 hours a day, want the overtime pay after eight hours a shift.

Negotiations reached a boiling point last fall when nurses carried out a one-day strike against the hospital on Oct. 5 — an event, they said, that succeeded in unifying the nurses and many community members.

But hospital officials were able to bring in workers from other hospitals in the Baystate health system, and did not change their stance on the fiscal need for overtime reform.

Contract talks started in October 2011 and have focused on the overtime debate, sick policy, health insurance and ability to negotiate future wage increases.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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