Berkshire Medical Center employees urge RN colleagues not to strike: 6 things to know

Ahead of a planned strike, a group of employees at Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center are calling for resolution of a dispute between the hospital and registered nurses, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

Here are six things to know:

1. On June 11, three longtime medical center employees hope to rally nurse colleagues represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association to reach a contract agreement and avoid a strike, the report states. Employees have expressed concerns about the planned walkout, including internal conflict and financial risks to the hospital.

2. The medical center employees have circulated a petition stating: "We do not support the MNA's decision to strike, and ask for acceptance [of] a fair and reasonable contract."

3. Negotiations began in September 2016. The nurses went on strike in October 2017, and in January voted to authorize another one-day strike. After a strike authorization, the law requires nurses to give hospital officials at least 10 days' notice of a planned walkout. The nurses issued a one-day strike notice for Feb. 27, but later withdrew it. Then on June 4, nurses notified the medical center they planned to begin a one-day strike at 7 a.m. June 18. The Berkshire Eagle reported that the latest medical center contract proposal was withdrawn when the June strike notice was issued, meaning an offer extended in February is back on the table.

4. Earlier this month, the hospital said it has prepared for another strike and does not anticipate interruption of services or quality of care. According to the report, those preparations include planning to bring in replacement nurses for five days. The medical center estimates a June 18 strike and the subsequent four days in which hospital nurses will be unable to return to work because of an agreement with replacement workers will cost $3 million to $4 million.

5. Staffing has been a key sticking point in negotiations. However, the union indicated it is committed to reaching a resolution.

"To our nonRN caregiver co-workers we say this: We're all in this together; we are all one. We are here for you. In unity there is strength."

6. The hospital did not comment about the petition or June 11 rally effort when contacted by Becker's Hospital Review. But it expressed disappointment about strike plans.

"For the past four months, the hospital has, at every opportunity, made clear to the union and to the registered nurses it represents that if they did not timely accept the hospital's offer or if they chose to deliver another strike notice, the offer would be withdrawn," a hospital statement reads. "The hospital's reasoning is not punitive, but rather the result of its obligation to redirect hospital resources that could have benefited the nurses and use them instead to maintain quality hospital services during a … nurses' strike."  


More articles on human capital and risk:

Washington state nurses picket over staffing
University of Vermont Medical Center nurses to vote on strike
Bartlett Regional Hospital workers get pay hike in 3-year labor deal


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