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Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses still without contract after 30 sessions

A debate on overtime pay continues to prolong talks which began in October of 2011, preventing an agreement from being reached, said representatives from both sides.

Hospital officials believe the proposed overtime pay change, which would change the daily model to a weekly one, where time-and-a-half pay would only kick in after nurses work 40 hours in a week, is a necessary cost-saving measure.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining unit has called the proposal “radical” and said it ignores the hospital’s understaffing problem.

At a negotiation session last month, the sides discussed the possibility of forming a task force that would look at the root causes of why overtime occurs. But those discussions did not continue into Monday’s contract talks.

“We came prepared to receive a counterproposal from the MNA based on the proposal we had made at our last negotiating session,” said Amy Swisher, the hospital’s director of public and community relations.

“Instead of responding to our proposal, the union continued to make additional information requests about the overtime issue which has been on the table since the first day of negotiations more than a year ago,” she said.

“As a result, no progress was made.”

Donna Stern, co-chair of the union, said that the Baystate Health system’s control over the Greenfield hospital has made most discussions fruitless.

“The conversations that take place on a local level have always been productive, but what we’re talking about is an overarching problem with Baystate Health system corporation,” she said. “We can only go so far on a local level, because what they’re being driven by is what the mothership tells them.”

The union presented a list of 40 Massachusetts hospitals or hospital chains, all represented by MNA, that have overtime provisions similar to BFMC.

It’s an attempt, Stern said, to show administrators that their claim of proposing an overtime pay “industry standard” is baseless. Hospital officials declined further comment on the issue.

There are no immediate plans for another strike, said Stern. Instead, the union will work to strengthen its community support force through outreach campaigns, she said.

“I think there are still people in this community who ... haven’t come to terms yet that it’s not Franklin Medical Center, it’s Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” she said. “(We need) outside pressure coming in and saying, ‘You know, enough is enough.’”

The two sides will meet next on Dec. 19.

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