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Nurse Negotiations

No progress made in Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurse contract talks

GREENFIELD — The latest negotiation session between Baystate Franklin Medical Center and its nurses went like almost all of their past contract talks in 2013: nowhere.

The two parties will enter their third year of contract talks, with the nurses’ negotiators still holding onto a three-day strike authorization card they can play at any time. Both sides agree that this local conflict has escalated into a larger fight between the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Baystate Health system, the parent company of the Greenfield hospital.

“We remain hopeful (about reaching an agreement) and there’s a new year coming,” said Linda Judd, co-chairwoman of the local nurses union. Nurses say they’d like to hold more community forums in the coming year and are in the process of contacting the Baystate Health Board of Trustees to inquire about the amount of money the health system is spending on these contract talks.

The two sides have met 42 times since October 2011 but have been unable to agree on a new contract that is now almost two years overdue. Nurses want to continue receiving time-and-half for time beyond their daily scheduled shifts and the hospital wants to change to a weekly model, where bonus pay would only kick in after 40 hours.

Compromises have emerged — a one-hour overtime grace period and a prolonged transition from the daily to weekly pay models were both discussed this year — but they never went anywhere. A push by nurses to take the issue to arbitration was shot down by hospital officials.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center spokeswoman Amy Swisher said that at the latest bargaining talk, the hospital “reiterated that the offer we had put on the table on June 27, 2013 was indeed our last, best and final offer. We would like the membership to have the opportunity to vote on that offer.”

But nurse leaders have said that the voting members of the union rejected that offer when they turned to the arbitration route in September. One month later, nurses favored holding a three-day strike at a future date.

Hospital leaders said they want to settle the issue at the negotiating table and a strike vote won’t change their stance that it is financially necessary to move away from daily overtime. They are prepared to bring in outside help and weather a strike, like they did in October 2012 when the nurses walked out for 24 hours.

Read more about this topic at: www.recorder.com/nurses

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

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