Baystate Franklin nurses finalize contract after months-long negotiations

  • Nurses and their supporters picket outside the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in Greenfield in June. After several months of negotiations, nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center have voted to ratify a new contract with the hospital. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2022 6:40:09 PM
Modified: 8/12/2022 6:36:54 PM

GREENFIELD — After several months of negotiations, nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center have voted to ratify a new contract with the hospital that union representatives say will protect nurses and their ability to provide safe patient care.

“We are proud of this agreement and what it will do to help us recruit and retain the nurses we need to provide quality patient care,” said Suzanne Love, a staff nurse who also serves as co-chair of the bargaining unit.

According to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), the contract protects nurses from “inappropriate floating,” by ensuring they are not sent independently to care for patients “in areas where they are not competent.” It also includes language that guarantees a minimum level of staffing in each hospital unit, as well as wage increases and improvements to the timeline for receiving certain wage increases.

Deb Provost, chief nursing officer/ chief administrative officer at Baystate Franklin, said administrators are pleased to have reached a final, ratified agreement between the hospital and its MNA-represented nurses.

“The negotiation process was productive and professional, reflecting a shared commitment to be an outstanding provider of high-quality care,” Provost said. “The contract is consistent with BFMC and Baystate Health’s overall priorities: retaining and recruiting top talent, providing market competitive wages and benefits, reinforcing a focus on quality care and creating a workplace of choice.”

Shelburne Falls resident Marissa Potter, a registered nurse and bargaining unit co-chair, said the wider community has shown “amazing support” for the nurses at Baystate throughout the contract negotiation process.

“This agreement will help us protect our ability to provide safe patient care and address staffing shortages that have caused healthcare worker burnout and moral injury,” she said.

Potter was among the staff and community members who gathered at the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in June, about seven months after negotiations began, picketing for fair pay and safer working conditions.

In June, she and Love spoke about the need for the hospital to prioritize its local workers. Potter noted that the “nursing shortage” often referenced in the media isn’t, in fact, a shortage of nurses, but a shortage of nurses “willing to accept conditions in the hospital.”

Love added that while travel nurses help fill gaps in coverage, the hospital can’t rely on contract workers for long-term care.

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

The contract agreement and ratification on Thursday follows numerous bargaining sessions, a virtual community forum, picketing events and the distribution of lawn signs throughout the county.

“We fought hard together — as nurses and our community — to convince Baystate Health executives to agree to important patient care protections and competitive wage increases,” Love said.

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


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