Baystate Franklin nurses picket for fair pay amid contract negotiations

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and their supporters picket outside the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and their supporters picket outside the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2022 5:12:12 PM
Modified: 6/15/2022 5:09:56 PM

GREENFIELD — Nurses from Baystate Franklin Medical Center gathered outside the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew on Wednesday, once again advocating for fair pay and, in general, a greater investment in community nursing as contract negotiations continue.

“We need to make it attractive and competitive and possible for local nurses to stay in their own communities,” said Marissa Potter, junior co-chair of the bargaining committee.

June marks roughly half a year since negotiations began, union representatives said on Wednesday while standing outside the church, where negotiations were set to continue. Nurses were joined by family and friends, as well as members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Greenfield-based Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution.

Potter, a registered nurse and resident of Shelburne Falls, said she and her peers are asking for contracts with “adequate and fair pay” that allow them to continue nursing in their home community.

Anita Fritz, a Baystate Franklin spokeswoman, said the hospital continues to have “productive contract negotiations” with representatives of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

“Both sides have been respectful and focused on reaching an agreement,” Fritz wrote in a statement. “We are confident that our proposals reflect our commitment to safe staffing, competitive compensation and continued investment in local care.”

Suzanne Love, a staff nurse in the Emergency Department who also serves as co-chair of the bargaining unit, said while nurses at Baystate Franklin appreciate the work of travel nurses, it isn’t a model that encourages nurse retention. In many cases, she said, there are Greenfield nurses with travel nursing contracts at other western Massachusetts hospitals and vice versa.

According to Love, Baystate Franklin nurses are some of the lowest paid in the region. Travel nurses help fill gaps in coverage this has caused, she said, but “we can’t rely on these contract workers for long-term care.”

“While we’re grateful to have travelers … they’re not invested in the community,” Love said. “They don’t know the community. They don’t know how the hospital system works.”

By comparison, as a nurse at The Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Potter said she sees patients through the whole reproductive cycle.

“It’s a good example of community-based nursing, where you get to know us,” she said.

Potter added that the “nursing shortage” often referenced in the media isn’t, in fact, a shortage of nurses.

“What’s important to understand is … there are plenty more nurses graduating every day,” she said. “What we have is a lack of nurses who are willing to accept conditions in the hospital.”

Love said the current management team at Baystate Franklin is one of the best she’s worked with.

“They’re doing what they can,” she said. “But we would like everyone to dig a little deeper to keep this hospital running smoothly.”

She noted that past contract negotiations lasted 42 sessions over 2½ years.

“We don’t want to do that,” Love said.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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