NLRB files complaint against Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke

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Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2019 4:29:34 PM

HOLYOKE — The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, accusing the hospital of violating labor law by “refusing to bargain collectively in good faith” with some of its employees.

The complaint comes after unfair labor practice charges were filed early this year by Providence Hospital Organized Workers, or POW — the union representing mental health counselors, certified nurse assistants, substance abuse counselors, recover specialists and methadone maintenance clinicians. POW is a unit of the United Auto Workers Union Local 2322.

The union has alleged that the hospital made unilateral changes to time-off and holiday benefits included in the workers’ contract, which was collectively bargained in 2016 and is due to expire in February. The complaints also alleged that the hospital did not respond to the union’s requests for information about how those changes would affect its members.

After investigating those changes, the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, filed a complaint on Sept. 13, stating that the hospital “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith” with the union.

“The fact of the matter is that we all feel disrespected,” said Michelle Reardon, a seven-year hospital employee who chairs the POW union. Reardon said her union’s members have upheld their end of the collective bargaining agreement, but management is not doing the same. “It’s kind of like a slap in the face to us.”

Providence Behavioral Health Hospital officials did not respond to messages requesting comment on Thursday. The NLRB’s website shows that the hospital has filed a motion for reconsideration in the case.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020. But union officials say that the hospital should work to remedy the situation before then.

“At this point, or any point, all the hospital has to do is reverse the changes and make everybody whole,” said Anais Surkin, the president of Local 2322. “But the hospital has refused to do that.”

Surkin said that during bargaining, the hospital had previously proposed the changes it ultimately ended up making. But the hospital was unsuccessful in getting its employees to agree to those “concessionary demands,” and they weren’t included in the contract both sides agreed to, Surkin added.

Karen Rosenberg, the UAW representative who initially filed the unfair labor practice charges, said the hospital is not allowed to unilaterally change conditions that were agreed upon by both sides in a legally binding contract.

“They’re basically just ignoring the union,” Rosenberg said. “It seems like they’re trying to bust the union.”

Providence Behavioral Health Hospital is part of Trinity Health of New England, which is owned by the Michigan-based corporation Trinity Health.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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