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Editorial: Labor board may offer clarity

Having Baystate Franklin Medical Center declare an impasse in its talks with the nurses’ union is probably an inevitable step for these contentious contract negotiations.

With talks closing in on a 2½ year anniversary, the two sides seem no closer to resolving the most difficult issue: daily overtime pay. The hospital wants to move to a pay structure where overtime kicks in after 40 hours for a week, rather than the existing time-and-a-half for hours served after a daily shift. Unfortunately, whatever concessions were made elsewhere in the contract, the hospital and nurses union could not find an answer that would work here.

Indeed, the two parties seemed more entrenched over time, something that couldn’t have added to the tenor of the talks.

So, no, we sadly can’t say that the impasse decision was surprising.

Nor does it bring an end to this bitter story. The union says that it will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which could actually bring some clarity to the situation. As stated on its website, “the NLRB will determine whether true impasse was reached based on the history of negotiations and the understandings of both parties.”

The issue of “good faith bargaining also comes into play here. Again from the NLRB website, “the Board will look at the totality of the circumstances. The duty to bargain in good faith is an obligation to participate actively in the deliberations so as to indicate a present intention to find a basis for agreement. This implies both an open mind and a sincere desire to reach an agreement as well as a sincere effort to reach a common ground.”

We don’t doubt that both sides sincerely think that have handled their end of negotiations in ways that fit the NLRB’s criteria.

But after all this time, involving this federal agency to provide an independent readings of what has been taking place — and determine whether an impasse was the right call — may actually bring some closure here, whether the outcome suits both parties or not.

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