Nurses strike called off in exchange for bargaining date with Baystate Health

  • Nurses and their allies picket Baystate Franklin Medical Center Monday morning during their one-day strike on June 26, 2017. Recorder FILE PHOTO/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/23/2018 6:57:38 PM

GREENFIELD — The strike has been avoided with just days to spare.

Baystate Health asked the nurses union to withdraw its one-day strike notice in exchange for a bargaining date.

Now instead of a strike Wednesday, Feb. 28, alongside a three day lockout, there will be a day of negotiations slated for Monday, Feb. 26.

The hospital added it reached out to the Greenfield nurses following this morning’s announcement by the union’s bargaining unit at Pittsfield’s Berkshire Medical Center that its nurses called off their 10-day strike notice.

“We reached out to the MNA this afternoon and again extended our offer to go back to the negotiating table if they would call off their strike,” Baystate Health spokeswoman Shelly Hazlett said in a statement. “We are very pleased that the MNA has agreed to call off their planned strike and move forward with us to settle the contract for Baystate Franklin nurses.”

It appeared all week the nurses and Baystate Franklin Medical Center were on course for their second one-day strike during these 16 months of negotiations. On Feb. 16, the nurses had announced a 24-hour strike, which later triggered the hospital’s announcement of a three-day lockout, which would have begun Feb. 27.

“Our community wants to see us reach a resolution that protects and improves patient care,” Donna Stern, head of the nurses bargaining unit, wrote in a press release. “We have been asking to negotiate a fair contract all along, and we hope that the withdrawal of our strike notice gives us space to reach an agreement that benefits our patients, our nurses and our community.”

Although the nurses have canceled their strike, their unit’s approval of the right to a one-day strike still stands, which means if negotiations don’t pan out, they have the ability to give their 10-day notice for a new strike.

The hospital had announced a three-day lockout if the nurses striked, which is how Baystate handled the last strike in June. The lockout would have brought in temporary nurses, also known as traveling nurses. They would have hired an agency to bring in these nurses, which is why they needed the three-day contract. It is unclear at this point if calling off the strike has cost the hospital.

In the week leading up to the strike, emotions on both sides began to escalate.

There was a debate to whether either side was willing to go to a bargaining session before the strike. The nurses continued to contest they are willing to bargain, saying the hospital had not agreed to a date that was on table. Stern had repeatedly stated they wanted to meet with the hospital, but the hospital would not meet for the proposed Feb. 26 date.

The hospital said it was willing to negotiate with the nurses. Following the announcement of a few Greenfield city councilors planning to go down to Springfield to hopefully meet with senior leadership, Hazlett said in a statement:

“We look forward to contract resolution through appropriate processes, and find it unfortunate that the MNA is choosing to strike rather than come to the table to negotiate — especially since we gave them dates to continue our negotiations prior to their strike notice, yet they declined to meet.”

In Acting President Ron Bryant’s first interview with press since assuming the position about five weeks ago, which he gave exclusively to the Greenfield Recorder this past week, he maintained they were willing to negotiate. Bryant said all negotiations had to come between the two parties and if mediated, it would be through the federal mediator.

On Feb. 13 Congressman Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, offered to host negotiations to try to help them avoid a strike; the announcement was put out by the nurses union and was later declined by the hospital.

On Friday morning, following a Franklin County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, McGovern told the Recorder his offer still stands. “I’m willing to help in anyway I can,” he said, although noted he cannot force himself into the situation but rather just offer a hand.

Later Friday, before the announcement of the cancellation of the strike-notice, hospital spokeswoman Molly MacMunn said in a statement, “While we appreciate Congressman McGovern’s interest in this issue, at this time, we plan to continue direct conversations with the union.”

By the evening, the notice that the strike was nixed came out.

Now the two sides will get together Monday and will see if they can move forward on key issues like staffing and health insurance, and then go from there, with the potential strike still not off the table.


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