Baystate Franklin nurses authorize strike

  • The entrance to the Baystate Franklin Medical Center Emergency Room in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/15/2017 11:34:56 PM

GREENFIELD — The nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center have voted to give their union leaders the right to call a one-day strike — signaling the latest escalation in the ongoing contract negotiations with Baystate Health.

In a statement from the president of the Greenfield hospital, Cindy Russo called the move “very disappointing.”

“This action is completely inconsistent with our leadership’s good-faith efforts to address issues collaboratively and reach resolution in a way that is fair to our nurses,” Russo’s statement said.

Russo is in her first year at the helm of the hospital, and onset of contract negotiations predate her arrival. The nurses have noted their issue is with the nonprofit parent corporation, Baystate Health, based in Springfield.

After filing unfair labor charges with the National Labor Relations Board and holding a rally on the Town Common in Greenfield last week, the 200 nurses of the Baystate Franklin chapter of the Massachusetts Nurses Association made its next move Monday, hoping to prompt more fruitful negotiations.

The next scheduled negotiations between the hospital and the nurses is this evening. The nurses said their goal is to reach fair negotiations and not have to strike.

“We are ready to negotiate with you over our health and safety proposals,” said Donna Stern, chairwoman of the bargaining committee for the nurses union at Baystate Franklin. “That’s all we care about it.”

The union seeks to increase nurse staffing and add at least one additional security officer for the night shift. The union filed six labor charges last week on counts of unfair bargaining.

“We filed the labor charges to see if that moved them,” Stern said. “When a corporation is this entrenched, and they are this entrenched, it usually takes them more than one action.”

Concerned about staffing issues, the nurses union has cited 128 text messages from one medical unit requesting nurses to come in and work overtime on their days off.

The union is concerned about the safety of its staff and patients in the evening. Recently, the overnight security staff of three officers was reduced to two, with one whose job is now to sit at a welcome desk and the other’s position is to patrol the hospital.

If the union decides to strike, it must give a 10-day notice to the hospital, as required by law. The nurses can strike for 24 hours, unless they can reach a fair contract settlement by that date, a statement provided by the union says. The nurses plan to work following the 24-hour period.

Russo in her statement said that Baystate Franklin’s contract proposal includes wage increases and a “strong and competitive” benefits package. It does not state if the wage increases are attributed to cost-of-living. The statement also disagrees with the nurses’ demand for more nurses in the units.

“We don’t believe that the (union’s) long-running effort to force hospitals to maintain rigid staffing ratios is the right response to the major changes taking place in healthcare, nationally, regionally and in our community,” Russo said.

At issue is how many nurses are needed to provide satisfactory and safe conditions for patients at the nonprofit hospital. Stern said the word “ratio” was the wrong way to approach the issue. Instead, the union chairwoman said, the focus should be on “limits” on how many patients a nurse can take care of without reaching an unsafe level.

Stern asserted there is enough money at Baystate Health to meet the demands of the nurses.

“You’re paying executives millions and millions of dollars,” Stern said. “Don’t tell us you don’t have the money.”

Baystate Health’s 2015 tax returns reported its CEO, treasurer and president emeritus all made about $1 million each.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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