Nurses strike averted in Greenfield; agreement reached

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Hospital officials and nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center announced a tentative contract agreement Friday, three days before the nurses were scheduled to go on a one-day strike.

Speaking during an afternoon news conference at the grand ballroom of the Hotel Northampton, Chuck Gijanto, Baystate President of Regional Markets, said that the agreement is a compromise that will continue to meet the needs of both nurses and Baystate, but both parties made major concessions.

Linda Judd, a Baystate Franklin nurse and one of the co-chairs of the nurses’ negotiating team, said that the agreement will be of benefit to everyone in the Franklin County community.

“This has been a very long two years, and I’m jubilant that it’s over and we’ve come to an agreement,” Judd said.

According to a news release sent to 22News by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (the union representing the nurses), the agreement was reached following negotiations between both parties on Thursday and Friday.

The MNA says that the contract would be effective through the end of 2016, and includes a 4% raise for nurses, and a withdrawal of a Baystate proposal for the elimination of daily overtime. The way in which nurses are paid overtime is among the issues which brought negotiations to a dead end.

The nurses announced last week that they had decided to hold the one-day strike, following more than 40 bargaining sessions with Baystate.

According to Judd, “None of us wanted to go out on strike, but we had to do this in order to get back to the table so we could get it resolved, so now it’s resolved. The strike is off.”

Gijanto said, “It won’t be a huge financial hit on the hospital. Plus the commitment that we have together to work on reducing overtime.”

Among the highlights of the contract agreement; overtime protections for nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate will pay 75% of health insurance premiums, and a 4% across-the-board raise for this year and a bonus scheduled for full and part time nurses.

Below is a new release sent to 22News from Baystate with the specifics of the five-year agreement:

Baystate Franklin Medical Center and the Massachusetts Nurses Association reached agreement Friday on a new contract for the MNA-represented nurses at BFMC, concluding over two years of negotiations. State Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Rep. Stephen Kulik played a key role in encouraging the two parties to return to the negotiating table within the past 48 hours, setting a tone for productive and respectful discussions.

The agreement will take effect upon ratification by the BFMC nurses; however, the endorsement of the new contract proposal by the MNA’s negotiating committee will result in the cancelation of their strike scheduled for Monday at BFMC. The agreement strikes a compromise around the key issue of daily overtime.

“We’re very pleased to end this long process and move forward in a way that exemplifies the shared commitment of both our hospital and our nursing staff to improve the health of the people of Franklin County,” said Chuck Gijanto, president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center. “And we offer our thanks to Sen. Rosenberg and Rep. Kulik for their leadership, guidance, and hard work to bring this situation to resolution.”

The terms of the agreement include:

–A permanent one-hour grace period for daily overtime pay for RNs at BFMC. Daily hours worked by BFMC RNs beyond the grace period will be paid at time-and-a-half.

–Launch of an overtime task force with clinical representatives of the hospital and the MNA, tasked with finding recommendations to improve the utilization and management of overtime.

–An additional ratification bonus between $500 and $1000 per nurse.

–BFMC will lift its declaration of impasse.

–The MNA will waive any and all outstanding unfair labor practice charges against BFMC.

The compromise around daily overtime, particularly the one hour grace period, allows the hospital to achieve approximately 70% of the projected cost savings associated with ending daily overtime.

Sen. Rosenberg and Rep. Kulik, who followed the discussions between the hospital and the MNA throughout the course of the standoff, scaled up their involvement as the two sides moved toward a strike scheduled for February 10th, convening quiet 11th-hour negotiations to achieve the compromise that ultimately ended the dispute.

“From the beginning to the end of this long road, everyone concerned had one thing in mind: great care for the patients and families served by Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” said Sen. Rosenberg.

“I am very pleased that both sides have recognized the importance to the community of resolving their differences and moving forward to continue providing the highest quality healthcare to the people of Franklin County,” said Rep. Kulik.

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