Baystate Franklin nurses stage one-day walkout
24y 2 lines light
GREENFIELD — A heavy fog was just beginning to lift at 6:50 a.m. on Friday, as about 70 Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and their supporters huddled together on the intersection of Beacon and High streets.
Signs hung around their necks — blue and red capital letters exclaimed “Nurses on strike: For patient care” and “Nurses on strike: Protect our patients.” Some waved blue Massachusetts Nurses Association flags, while others shook noisemakers and cheered at the honking of passing cars’ horns.
“We’re here fighting for patient safety,” shouted union co-chairwoman Linda Judd over a megaphone to the crowd gathered in blue MNA windbreakers. “Who’s ready to kick some you-know-what?”
At 7 a.m., the nurses began their march down High Street past the hospital. A 24-hour strike against the hospital — fueled by what the union perceives as unfair hospital policies and attempts to take away negotiation rights — had begun.
Joined by night shift nurses exiting the hospital, the group grew to about 100 as the procession marched around the block on Sanderson and North streets. Police officers and hospital security guards, stationed at the front of parking lot entrances, stood silently as the nurses passed.
Chants were shouted back and forth from within the procession line.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
After a year of failed negotiation sessions, nurses said Friday that they had no choice but to strike against the hospital. They accused hospital administrators of putting financial interests over patient safety, and called both the current sick policy and a proposed change in overtime pay unsafe and unfair.
“We really believe that this is going to show Baystate that we are firm on our positions,” said Judd.
“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think it was going to make a difference. We didn’t want to strike.”
In what they said was an effort to not jeopardize patient safety, the nurses elected to strike for a single day only. They plan to return to work today, beginning at 7 a.m.
The two sides will meet for another contract negotiation session on Oct. 25.
But hospital officials said Friday that the strike will not cause any change in their negotiation positions.
Baystate Franklin’s current economic situation — the loss of $8 million in the last two years, and a need for the Baystate Health system to reduce its budget by $120 million in the next three years — has made it impossible for administrators to turn back on the cost-saving measures they have been fighting for, said hospital President Chuck Gijanto.
“If we were going to have conceded, we would have done it before the strike. We wouldn’t have let it (come) to this,” Gijanto said. “Just because there is a strike, (that) doesn’t suddenly magically create more money.”