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Nurse Negotiations

Nurses, hospital see progress in contract talks

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses were optimistic Wednesday that the 19-month contract debate with their hospital may soon be resolved.

“We all, on our side of the table, felt very encouraged with the discussion and that both sides are trying to meet each other,” said Linda Judd, co-chair of the local bargaining unit. “We’re not going to all get everything we want but we’re definitely closer.”

“The hospital and (the Massachusetts Nurses Association) both exchanged proposals in writing and had discussions about some creative solutions to reaching an agreement,” said hospital spokeswoman Amy Swisher. “None was reached today but the next meeting is set for May 22.”

In the 33 negotiation sessions since October 2011, nurses and hospital administrators have not been able to agree on the overtime issue.

Nurses want daily overtime pay to continue whenever they work beyond their regular scheduled shifts. The hospital, citing a need to cut costs, has wanted to change to a weekly overtime pay model, where nurses would only be paid after 40 hours.

But both sides agree that they’d like to see the need for overtime go away, said Judd.

On Wednesday, the union expanded its plan to create a task force to analyze how and when overtime is used in the hospital. It could even involve piloting overlapping shift schedules in certain units to see if the total amount of overtime is reduced, said Judd.

The union is proposing that the two sides sign a contract until June 2014. Then, the task force could try out alternate solutions to reduced the need for overtime and its findings could be used to steer future contract discussions next June.

In March, the nurses organized a community forum to hear what residents would like from Baystate Franklin in the years to come. Union leaders have said that the forum was not directly connected to the contract talks, although nurses did first learn of some residents’ concerns while campaigning for their cause.

As a result of that forum, as many as 15 town meeting warrants this spring contain proposals that would express a desire to keep medical services intact at the Greenfield hospital.

The nurses have said that despite the hospital continuing to provide quality health care, more and more patients are being routinely sent down to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

Hospital officials rebutted this claim, arguing that Baystate Franklin is increasing its local services while still being able to connect patients with specialists in Springfield if necessary.

You can reach Chris Shores at:

cshores@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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