Media Contact: Amy.Swisher@baystatehealth.org, 413-773-2268
GREENFIELD – Though Baystate Franklin Medical Center (BFMC) began its bargaining session today with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) hoping to come to a contract resolution, after nearly nine hours of negotiations the two parties were deadlocked with very little progress made. The next date set for negotiations is Wednesday, October 3 from 6-9 pm.
The proposals offered by BFMC to the nurses were robust, including wage increases, bonus pay related to overtime, a bonus for ratifying the contract by October 26, and a 3-year contract which the MNA had requested. Instead of responding to these proposals, the MNA staff and nurses spent the first several hours of the negotiating session discussing what was previously published in the news and issues with the hospital’s electronic time clock. “Early in the bargaining session, it became apparent that the MNA was not interested in reaching an agreement with the hospital,” commented Deborah Palmeri, Chief Nursing Officer, BFMC.
Baystate Franklin Medical Center already pays competitive wages so that the hospital is able to recruit and retain highly qualified staff. In 2011, nurses working 32-40 hours a week earned as much as $109,301 with their median pay $78,856. In addition, BFMC nurses receive a comprehensive, contemporary benefits package, with part-time benefits starting at 16 hours per week and full-time benefits at 32 hours.
The wage offer now on the table is the same or better than other MNA hospitals throughout the state. It includes an average increase of 2% in the first year and an average increase of 2.75% in the second year. The hospital proposed a wage re-opener in the third year of the contract, allowing for both parties to assess fair market wages at that time.
BFMC held to its position to eliminate payment of daily overtime and instead move to paying overtime after 40 hours has been worked in any given week. The hospital has also proposed bonus pay to RNs who agree to work for blocks of 4+ hours that have been identified as critical to fill, though the MNA has been unwilling to discuss this compromise.
“Overtime has been a major sticking point in our negotiations to date,” said Chuck Gijanto, President, BFMC, who clarified that the hospital’s proposal is in accordance with state and federal labor law and also with the shift in practice that has applied to all other employees of Baystate Health since January 1, 2012. “This change is expected to save Baystate Health $1.8million this year, and was made in direct response to the present healthcare environment, including BFMC’s loss of $8million over the past two years,” said Gijanto. “Baystate Health is committed to ensuring the long-term viability of our community hospital and to do so we all must be willing to adjust in these changing times. While the union sees the overtime proposal as a ‘takeaway’ for individual nurses, the new policy will preserve more jobs and reduce the need for lay-offs.”
Another sticking point which has slowed negotiations has been the MNA’s claim that the hospital wants to force nurses to work while they are sick or they will face discipline. Palmeri vigorously countered what she said was a misrepresentation of the hospital’s longstanding attendance policy. “Of course we do not want nurses coming to work when they are at risk of endangering their health or their patients’ health, which is why we offer paid time off,” she said. “However, if nurses call out sick repeatedly, or at the last minute, they place undue burden on their colleagues who must cover until replacements arrive. The existing policy addresses this well. And when a nurse calls out with a legitimate illness or injury, no ‘unplanned absence’ is recorded, and discipline is not an issue.”
“We began today’s session by proposing to the union a new wage package that included addition money for all RN’s in year two and we also we increased our ratification bonus. We ended the day proposing a further increase in our ratification bonus. We put additional money on the table three times today, and there was no change in the MNA’s position since our last negotiation,” explained Gijanto.
In summary, Gijanto noted, “Given the MNA’s failure to respond to the key proposals on the table, and to instead spend the time on issues of lesser importance, they have sent a clear signal that they had no intention of settling the contract today. While we now have a date for the next session, and hope to finalize the agreement at that time, we are continuing to develop our contingency plans and will remain open in the event the MNA proceeds with its 24-hour strike and picketing against the hospital, which is set to begin on Friday, October 5 at 7am.”