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Nurse Negotiations

Hospital to use temps during strike

Nurses set to walk off job Monday

Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
Recorder/Paul Franz

Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center will hire temporary nurses to work Monday during the planned one-day nursing strike, allowing all medical services to continue unabated.

That’s a difference from the 24-hour strike that took place in October 2012, when the hospital pared down its services and relied on other nurses from within the Baystate Health system. A high number of flu patients at the other Baystate hospitals made that impossible this time around, said Steven Bradley, a vice president for the health system.

The strike, the result of deadlocked contract negotiations, is expected to begin at 7 a.m. on Monday. Nurses and hospital officials have been engaged in a two-year labor dispute about overtime pay structure, which led the hospital to declare an impasse last month.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association and the National Nurses United represents all nurses at the Greenfield hospital — about 190.

The hospital currently plans to bring in about 70 nurses from a temporary agency to work during shifts throughout the 24-hour period. Officials wouldn’t disclose the name of the agency, but did say that the nurses are all licensed to work in Massachusetts and will undergo a hospital orientation prior to Monday.

And while the total cost for the temporary nurses was also not disclosed, Bradley said it was a significant expense. The health system needs to pay the agency for a minimum of three days’ work, even though they’ll actually only be working during the 24-hour strike.

“It’s not good ... (but) it is what it is,” said Bradley. “When you have an organization like the National Nurses United (leading and funding the nurses’ campaign) ... you have to be prepared to meet them head-on resource wide. It’s not going to be inexpensive.”

Hospital officials say they also believe that some Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses will cross the picket line and work on Monday. It’s unclear exactly how many will actually do so, but Bradley said that the hospital plans to increase security on Monday to protect any nurses who work as well as their vehicles.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association said it expects few to cross the picket line. The union has no plans to penalize any nurses who do so, said spokesman David Schildmeier.

“But those who would choose to cross are seen as undermining their colleagues and the cause of the strike, which is why very few nurses cross picket lines,” he said.

The union has said that a majority of its voting members support going on strike, although leaders have not disclosed the actual count of an October authorization vote.

There were no major security issues at the union’s last strike, with nurses picketing on the streets and staying off hospital property.

Hospital officials said that they are notifying any patients who have appointments or elective surgeries scheduled for Monday. Patients will have the opportunity to reschedule.

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

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