GREENFIELD, Mass., Oct. 12, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Baystate Franklin Medical Center has withdrawn an unfair labor practice charge filed this summer against its own registered nurses alleging that they have no right to strike to protest Baystate's refusal to negotiate a fair contract, including concrete solutions to nurses' staffing and patient care concerns, or for any other reason.
The charge, filed against BFMC nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, was officially dropped by Baystate on Oct. 5, 2017 when the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board approved the withdrawal.
"Working people have a right to strike in the United States. One thing we will never know is whether Baystate filed this charge as a publicity stunt for the headlines, knowing all along that it was baseless, or whether they actually believed that nurses have no right to strike even for a day. Either way, the NLRB did not agree," said Donna Stern, RN and Senior Co-Chair of the BFMC MNA Bargaining Committee. "If Baystate wants to reach a fair agreement, management will return to the bargaining table and negotiate with us over nurse workload and safe patient care, health insurance and other key RN issues, instead of relentlessly attacking the staff."
Prior to the strike, Baystate management also filed for an injunction to stop the strike. Evidently failing to see merit in the claim, the National Labor Relations Board declined to even hold a hearing on the motion. Baystate subsequently pursued this claim before the NLRB.
BFMC nurses planned to hold a one-day strike June 26, 2017 after voting by a 93% margin to authorize the strike. Baystate preemptively locked out nurses the day before the strike was to occur, and continued to lock them out for two additional days. Baystate announced in a press release that it spent $1 million on the lockout to hire replacement nurses and related costs.
Following the lockout, Baystate gave its "best and final" offer to BFMC nurses on July 21. That day BFMC nurses spent hours revising proposals, including their key issue of improving nurse workload and staffing to protect patient care. A few minutes after providing management with their revised proposal, they flatly rejected it and gave nurses a pre-printed "best and final offer." BFMC nurses voted to reject that offer on August 15.
The MNA has filed more than 20 unfair labor practice charges against Baystate on behalf of BFMC nurses for, among other reasons, failing to bargain in good faith over mandatory subjects of bargaining such as nurse workload and health insurance.
"Baystate has been refusing to bargain over our core issues of safe nurse staffing, workload and health insurance," Stern said. "We are trying hard to negotiate a fair contract that protects patients and ensures quality of life and working conditions. Management at Baystate Franklin has no power to negotiate. Instead, executives from Baystate's corporate offices in Springfield are making decisions about our nurses, our patients and our hospital."
BFMC nurses began negotiating for a new contract in November 2016 to replace the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2016. A federal mediator is involved in negotiations. No date has been set for the next BFMC session.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is 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.
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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association