For second time, nurses to strike against Baystate Franklin
GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses said Wednesday they intend to strike for 24 hours against their hospital, beginning on Feb. 10 at 7 a.m., in what will be the second labor walkout in 17 months.
The strike announcement, which the Massachusetts Nurses Association intends to give to Baystate Franklin this morning, comes a week after hospital officials declared an impasse in the 28-month contract negotiations and announced it would begin immediately implementing changes.
“They’ve left us with little recourse,” said union leader Donna Stern. “(The impasse) is not getting us any closer to having a contract. And it’s not getting us any closer to providing stability for this hospital and this community.”
Hospital president Chuck Gijanto said that while “extremely disappointed” by the nurses’ action, he wasn’t all that surprised by the news. The hospital has been preparing for a potential strike since the nurses authorized one back in October, and will be ready and fully staffed on Feb. 10, he said.
The two sides have met 42 times since October 2011 but have been unable to agree on a new contract, specifically the issue of overtime pay.
Nurses want to continue receiving time-and-a-half pay for any hours beyond their daily scheduled shifts. The hospital wants to change to a weekly model, where overtime pay would only kick in after 40 hours.
The nurses authorized a strike in October, but union leaders held off from calling a strike for months, still hopeful that a settlement could be reached through either mediation or arbitration.
But tensions escalated after the hospital declared an impasse last week.
Baystate Franklin bumped up nurses’ wages and handed out bonuses. As it stands now, the overtime pay structure will transition from daily to weekly by year’s end — but the nurses say they will fight the impasse decision with the National Labor Relations Board.
Although they could strike for up to three days, Stern said that nurses wanted to keep it to 24 hours, just as they did in October 2012.
Stern believes that in the 17 months since that strike, the community has rallied behind the nurses’ cause. But Gijanto said he didn’t believe that everyone has taken the nurses’ side.
“They have some support ... as does the hospital,” he said. “(But) the vast majority of the public just wants this to end.”
It’s unclear if the nurses and hospital will try to hold a negotiation session before Feb. 10. The nurses’ offer to take the case to arbitration is still on the table — but the hospital has said it’s not interested in having someone outside the community making a binding decision.
Both sides agree that if local nurses and hospital officials were the only ones involved in these negotiations, the dispute would have been settled long ago.
Hospital officials insist that the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents the Greenfield nurses, has invested its resources into a massive campaign against the health system. But nurses argue that Baystate Health is to blame, calling it a “corporate giant” that calls the shots while only thinking of the financial bottom line.
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264