PITTSFIELD, Mass., Aug. 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Berkshire Medical Center nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will visit a prominent member of the Berkshire Health Systems Board of Trustees in downtown Pittsfield on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The visit is part of an urgent effort by nurses to speak with all board members as nurses seek a fair contract that ensures safe patient care and provides quality, affordable health insurance.
A visit by BMC nurses to BHS Board of Trustee member John L. Bissell, President and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union.
Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 12:45 p.m.
Greylock Federal Credit Union at 150 West St. in Pittsfield.
"Non-profit boards are stewards tasked with the amazing responsibility of overseeing valuable community resources," said RN Alex Neary, Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. "Berkshire Medical Center and the patient care that nurses and other staff provide are among our community's most valuable assets.
"BMC is funded primarily through public money – tax dollars and generous donations – and therefore board members should take the time to listen to members of our community and take action. We have told the Board members that we are not asking them to bargain with us, as bargaining belongs at the table. But they should hear what we are experiencing and the struggles we are grappling with. The community is listening to what we have to say. The Board has an even greater need to listen."
"To that end, we have requested a meeting with every single trustee of Berkshire Health Systems," said RN Gerri Jakacky, Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. "We are encouraging board members to exercise the responsibilities entrusted to them to ensure BMC nurses can deliver the highest quality patient care. All too often we do not have enough nurses and other staff to care for the many patients we are assigned at one time, especially given how sick our patients are. We simply want enough staff to safely care for our patients at all times."
Background on Bargaining
BMC nurses are seeking a fair contract that foremost protects patient care by ensuring safe levels of nurse-to-patient assignments. Nurses have filed hundreds of unsafe patient care reports with BMC management in recent months. They have repeatedly detailed their concerns about high RN workload and how that connects to negative impacts on patient care.
Another key issue for nurses is quality and affordable health insurance. BMC has proposed raising by 100 percent how much nurses contribute to their individual health insurance premiums. Nurses in BMC's family health insurance plans already pay 40 to 70 percent more than managers.
Negotiations between BMC nurses and management began in September 2016. More than 20 bargaining sessions have been held to date, and now include a federal mediator. On May 31, nurses overwhelmingly rejected the hospital's "best and final" contract offer by a margin of 82 percent. Last month, nurses voted 83 percent to authorize a potential one-day strike. The 85 percent turnout was the highest ever for BMC nurses. The 16-member RN Bargaining Committee has the authority to call for a one-day strike and issue the 10-day strike notice required under federal law.
BMC nurses have also filed three unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Berkshire Health, including threatening to retaliate against nurses if they engage in protected activity – a potential one-day strike – and refusing to provide health insurance data necessary for bargaining.
The next negotiation date has been scheduled for August 28.
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.