Editorial: Settlement strikes the right note

Although it was not quite settled at the 11th-hour, the news that a new contract agreement had been reached between the nurses union and Baystate Franklin Medical Center struck the right note for the community.

The tentative pact averted a looming strike that would undoubtedly have produced sour notes that would have lingered for months, if not years. The hospital and the nurses must put in the effort now to get back in full harmony. But that’s to be expected after often contentious contract talks that have been the rule for more than two years.

“Both parties made significant concessions to get to this point,” Chuck Gijanto, hospital president, said in announcing the tentative settlement Friday. “We are together. We are united. We are going to recommit to taking care of all of the patient needs in our community.”

“We are thrilled to have finally reached an agreement that will provide the protections we need to ensure our patients receive the care they have come to expect from the nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” said Linda Judd, co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United local bargaining unit at BFMC in a statement on the union website. “This is an agreement where everybody wins: our patients, our nurses, our employer and our community.”

Much credit for the settlement has to go to two of the region’s state lawmakers — Sen. Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Stephen Kulik — for getting involved in the standoff. Rosenberg contacted the two sides and got them back to the negotiating table Thursday night and into Friday, with only two days to go before the strike. Several members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Rep. James McGovern and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey also were involved, from a distance, to bring the two parties back together.

Let’s also credit hospital officials and the nurses for being willing to listen to what these legislators were saying. It might have been easy to stay locked into positions and yet, with some help, that wasn’t the case.

“Instead of rehashing old news, we put a proposal on the table that was based on a proposal that had been discussed and put aside a year ago,” Rosenberg said.

As it turns out, the two sides were willing to listen and find more ways to compromise.

They found room to move on the overtime pay issue, which had become the crux that seemed to prevent coming to a settlement and resulted in the hospital declaring an impasse and a strike call. It also has opened the door for the two sides to form a task force aimed at reducing overtime.

“I believe we’re going to come out of this stronger than we went into it,” Gijanto said.

That should benefit all, inside the hospital and out.

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