SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Registered Nurses from around the state today picketed in front of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Hundreds of nurses left the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United annual convention being held in Springfield to lend support to two of their bargaining units. The nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center and Baystate Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of Springfield have been unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate new contracts for up to two years. The two units represent the only unionized employees in the vast Baystate Health Systems empire.
According to MNA/NNU President, Donna Kelly Williams, RN, Baystate is doing everything they can to drive the union out. "Over the past few years, in both units, we have seen Baystate management continuously try to undercut the power of the nurse's contracts. Now in negotiations they are trying to take away the nurses basic collective bargaining rights. We are here today to show support to our sisters and brothers and to let Baystate know we will not stand idly by when they attack our members and our rights. As front line nurses in critical care hospitals, advocating for our patients is very important to us. Our members are able to use the rights and protections of their union contract to effectively speak out for their patients and for themselves. Baystate is attacking the union because they do not want nurses standing up for their patients. We know Baystate wants to run these units the same way they do all their other units, with divisiveness, fear and intimidation."
The nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center have scheduled a one day strike for Friday, October 5. After almost a year in negotiations the Baystate corporate managers continue to demand concessions from the nurses that would cost the nurses thousands of dollars and deeply cut into their ability to negotiate over wages and health insurance. "We have scheduled a strike because Baystate refuses to come to the table and deal with us in a respectful manner that allows compromise. They have taken some very radical positions that would be harmful to quality patient care and have refused to move. In order to protect the quality of our patient care and the integrity of our union contract we had to call a strike," said Donna Stern, RN and co-chair of the bargaining committee.
Linda Judd, RN has worked at Baystate Franklin Medical Center for over thirty years and is also co-chair of the bargaining committee. "In the last ten years I have seen Baystate come into our community hospital and try to strip us of any caring and humanity. They have little concern for the Franklin County area. Over and over we have seen patients needlessly transferred to Springfield, not to serve the patients' needs but to serve Baystate's insatiable appetite for profit."
In Springfield the VNA and Hospice has been at the table for almost two years. "Baystate management has acted in a similar arrogant manner," says negotiating committee member Chris Clark, RN. "Since the beginning of negotiations Baystate has refused to have any meaningful discussions about issues important to the nurses and our patients. It is clear that they want to have total control over our work with little or no input from the nurses. At one point Baystate management declared the negotiations over and implemented a contract only approved by them. The National Labor Relations Board declared these actions were illegal and we are back at the table. Baystate corporate managers continue to act in the same manner making it very difficult to see any progress."
The nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center have one more negotiation session before the Friday strike deadline. If there is no settlement, nurses from across the state will join the line. "We are a sisterhood and brotherhood of caring compassionate nurses. When we see our fellow members in trouble we will be there and stand with them in this fight to secure quality patient care for the citizens of Franklin County," said Kelly-Williams.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.
SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association