Baystate Franklin nurses set to picket — but not strike

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and their supporters protest on the Greenfield Town Common on March 9. Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz

  • Donna Stern, chairwoman of the nurse's bargaining committee, speaks at a rally on the Greenfield Town Common on Thursday on March 9. Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/18/2017 2:21:28 PM

GREENFIELD — Nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center plan to hold an informational picket April 27 in front of the hospital from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The demonstration will be a response to ongoing contract negotiations between the nurses union and Baystate Health, which have revolved around interpretations of satisfactory staffing of both nurses and security workers at the hospital.

“It is not a strike but it is an opportunity to let the hospital know that the nurses and the community are unified and that this is our community hospital,” union chapter Chairwoman Donna Stern said.

The nurses’ decision to picket was announced Tuesday morning.

“It really is not necessary at this point,” Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo said.

In March, the Massachusetts Nurses Association chapter at the Greenfield hospital, which includes all nurses at the facility, filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Baystate Health. The nurses are legally obligated to give a 10-day notice for when they strike or picket.

“(The hospital) continues to make every effort to reach agreement on a fair contract for our nurses,” Russo said in a statement. “We continue to be disappointed that the MNA is using a series of tactics designed to distract attention from our efforts at the bargaining table.”

Since November, there have been 16 sessions to bargain for a new contract, which was set to expire at the end of 2016. Nurses hope that this latest public move will help the hospital understand its urgency to reach an agreement.

“I’d like to have this settled so that we could be moving on with things,” emergency department nurse Suzanne Love said. “Taking care of patients so we don’t have to think about going to sessions.”

Love said staffing concerns remain the main issue, noting that there are often four-hour blocks, or half a shift, in the schedule without a scheduled nurse. Russo said that is a typical schedule and the holes are filled in with freelance nurses.

Other issues include a pay raise, health insurance coverage and there being a safe and satisfactory number of nurses working at a given time in a unit.

Recently, Baystate Franklin Medical Center started to hire nurses for what is called a “float pool.” This move is meant to help the hospital with its staffing, Russo has said.

The nurses contest the immediate usefulness of the float pool, which is hiring nurses to work in the various units of the hospital. Stern said it takes between six months to a year to train newly hired employees for the float pool. Russo said that time frame is not accurate depending on who the hospital hires for the position, and how much experience the person has.

“The nurses want this float pool,” Stern said. “Both sides want this float pool. There are differences in how the nurses think it should look like and how the hospitals think it should look like. That has to be negotiated.”

Russo contested this point.

“We have a difference of opinion with the MNA on this,” Russo said. “I firmly believe that we could put this float pool in place because it meets our patient needs.”

The hospital is currently hiring freelance nurses to help fill some gaps in scheduling, something Stern said she wishes it was always able to do.

“We’re not sure why they’re all of a sudden able to do that when in fact we’ve been asking for it for years,” Stern said. “Are they doing it because they are having difficult contract negotiations?”

Russo said this hiring is not new and not a direct response to the negotiations, but something the hospital regularly does.

In addition to nurse staffing issues, the nurses continue to push for an additional security officer in the overnight shift, which now has two officers.

Hospital officials have previously said they are in talks with the security staff, who recently joined a union and are in the process of drafting their first contract. For this reason, the hospital will negotiate security staffing with the security members in the newly formed union. Stern says a lack of security officers in the building overnight is a safety concern and by law must be discussed at the bargaining table with the nurses.

“As it relates to the quality of care and staffing at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, we are confident that our approach meets the needs of our patients, is consistent with or exceeds best practices in the field, and supports high quality care,” Russo said in a statement.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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