Hospital to lock out nurses for 3 days for planned ‘illegal strike’

  • Recorder/Paul FranzBaystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield PAUL FRANZ

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/21/2017 3:03:33 PM

GREENFIELD — In response to the one-day strike by nurses planned for Monday, June 26, Baystate Franklin Medical Center has decided to lock out nurses from the hospital starting Sunday evening and lasting until Wednesday evening, according to a letter sent by President Cindy Russo to the nursing staff.

Calling the potential picket an “illegal strike,” Russo said the hospital will hire temporary nursing staff to work that time frame.

The hospital announced Wednesday that it will ask the National Labor Relations Board for injunctive relief — requesting the board to instruct the nurses that they legally cannot go on a strike because of the “No Strike” language in the current contract.

After more than half a year of negotiations, the nurses union decided to approve a one-day strike last week.

Letter to nurses

The letter from Russo to the nurses said that starting at 7 p.m. Sunday, nurses will be required to leave the grounds of the hospital. They will be allowed back in at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“This is a difficult time for all of us,” Russo said in the letter. “We remain committed to working in good faith with the MNA to reach a new contract for our nurses. We also recognize the need to pull together once we pass this challenge so we can work together to care for our patients.”

The letter says the hospital is required to guarantee temporary nurses a minimum number of workdays.

“We are not in a position to pay temporary nurses and Baystate Franklin nurses. We recognize that nurses could lose up to three days of pay,” Russo said in the letter.

The hospital president later explained that the hospital has been thinking about plans to address the potential strike since they received the notice about it.

Russo said the “decision was not driven by financial” reasons, but noted the logistics of a potential contract with the temporary nurses.

One day of temporary nurses was not an option for the hospital, Russo said.

MNA nurses head Donna Stern said that to hire temporary nurses for three days are “self-inflicted wounds.” She said that the hospital has had travelers, or temporary-type nurses, for weeks and does not understand why they cannot continue to use this method for the 24-hour strike Monday.

“Baystate has done this,” Stern said. “Baystate has created these conditions. We have not created these conditions. We’re not the ones starting this 12 hours before the strike.”

‘Illegal’ strike

Midday Wednesday in the middle of negotiations between the nurses and the hospital, Baystate Health sent a statement to media organizations saying it will file charges with the National Labor Relations Board because it views the potential strike as “illegal.”

“We were speaking with our legal (advisers) around that and once we determined this was the action that we could take, that’s when we took the action,” Russo said.

The hospital filed a similar charge before a one-day strike years ago, the nurses said, adding that it was struck down by the board, allowing for the strike to happen.

“Nothing is different; this is a legal strike,” Stern said.

The nurses union also expressed surprise that the statement was sent out during negotiations, which were going relatively well at the time, Stern said.

“Collectively we’re in shock that they’ll do a press release like that right in the middle of when we’re trying to reach a settlement,” Stern. “That’s disturbing to us.”

Negotiations update

Both sides said they are hopeful for an agreement to be reached. That sentiment between Stern and Russo has been expressed for months.

Wednesday was the first time in recent months that Stern expressed hope that both sides are inching closer to an agreement.

“It seems locally both sides want to reach an agreement,” Stern said. “Local people want to reach an agreement but I can’t speak to the intention of Springfield leadership.”

Stern, who spoke between negotiation sessions Wednesday, said the current issues still at the forefront are: workload and staffing, health insurance and earned, holiday and sick time.

Russo also said she hopes the two sides can reach an agreement before the strike and lockout occur.

“We are open to negotiating with the union as much and as often they would like, except during that three-day period because obviously that is a huge disruption to the community,” Russo said.

Negotiations for a chance to avoid the strike will continue at 9 a.m. Friday.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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