Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses will vote today (Thursday) on whether they will strike after reaching an impasse in talks with management over a new contract.
The voting process will be held throughout the day and the final tally will be taken after the voting ends at 9 p.m. But a vote to strike doesn’t mean the nurses will walk out immediately. It will merely give the Massachusetts Nursing Association, the group that has been negotiating on behalf of the Baystate nurses, the authorization to call a strike if they feel it is necessary.
If the call is given to strike, the nurses at Baystate, located in Greenfield, will continue at the hospital for 10 days before walking out.
Talks between the two sides on a new contract have been held since October. The previous contract ended this past spring but the 209 nurses at the 93-bed facility have remained on the job. At issue in the talks were salaries, overtime and sick leave regulations and health care insurance costs.
On Monday, nurses and administration held their 25th and apparently final negotiations as representatives of Baystate Health Systems reportedly walked out of the discussions. The nurses filed a charge of unfair labor practices against the administration with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We are filing this charge because Baystate Health Systems is refusing to negotiate in good faith,” said Linda Judd, RN and bargaining unit co-chair. “We have rights under the National Labor Relations Act and we will press these charges to force Baystate to negotiate a reasonable agreement. Their behavior is reprehensible and exemplifies Baystate’s real agenda, which is to take away our collective bargaining rights and to destroy our union.”
Baystate officials dispute the charge that they walked out of the talks. In a prepared statement, Baystate spokesperson Amy Swisher stated: “Despite claims by the Massachusetts Nurses Association that Baystate walked out on negotiations, the meeting concluded after both sides mutually agreed to two dates for additional bargaining sessions, September 19 and 27.”
The nurses claim they have received “tremendous support” from the members of the Greenfield community and say that residents has placed signs in yards and stores through the region demonstrating that support. In addition, they state that local and state public officials have also backed them in the fight in the form of resolutions passed by the Greenfield City Council and the Democratic State Convention asking Baystate Health System to bargain with the nurses in good faith.