State senators register concern over Baystate Franklin nursing talks


  • State Sen. Adam Hinds

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Published: 6/24/2017 12:08:54 AM

GREENFIELD — State legislators weighed in on the ongoing negotiations between Baystate Franklin Medical Center and the nurses’ union as a one-day strike looms for Monday and the hospital plans a three-day lockout of its nurses.

“We urge continued dialogue and engagement by both sides to avert any potential disruptions in access for patients in this largely rural service area,” state Senate President Stan Rosenberg D-Amherst, and state Sen. Adam Hinds D-Pittsfield, wrote in a letter Tuesday to Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack.

The senators, representing the western Massachusetts legislative delegation, called the negotiations “tense” and said they believe the two parties “share many common goals and values.”

The senators pointed to compromises made between the parties in the last contract negotiations three years ago, such as how to pay for overtime.

Keroack responded personally to both of the senators, said Shelly Hazlett, a spokeswoman for Baystate Health, which is Baystate Franklin’s parent. She could not provide any details to Keroack’s response.

Negotiations have been ongoing since November.

The letter from Rosenberg and Hinds was sent June 20, the day before Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo sent out a letter to her nursing staff alerting them of a lockout.

The lockout would prevent the nursing staff from coming into the building from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 p.m. Wednesday. During that time, temporary nursing staff would be hired to work those three days.

Russo’s decision to lockout the nurses was in response to a 24-hour strike called by the union scheduled for Monday. Russo said the three-day lockout was necessary because the hospital contractually needed to guarantee three days minimum of work. The nurses countered, saying the hospital has had “traveler nurses,” or temporary-style nurses, for weeks and could fill the gap with those same services for the 24-hour strike.

On the same day as sending out a letter to nurses about the lockout, Baystate Health also announced it was asking the National Labor Relations Board to step in, calling the proposed strike “illegal.”

The nurses union head Donna Stern said that the strike was in fact legal. She pointed to the last time they striked, years back during negotiations for a prior contract, that the hospital also asked the board to stop the strike then.

By early evening Friday, negotiations came to a close. The nurses said they are prepared for the lockout to begin Sunday night, as scheduled. There is potential for more bargaining over the course of the weekend, but the nurses said they will only engage if they view there is potential for progress.

“They’re still not bargaining in good faith over the three core issues,” Stern said, about the points of workload and staffing, health insurance and holiday plus sick time.

Stern added: “It still feels like local management wants to negotiate with us and (Baystate Health) Springfield overrules that ability for them to be able to do so.”

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy