Berkshire Medical Center gives OK for strike action

Unionized nurses at Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center gave their bargaining committee approval to call a strike if they so choose, reports The Berkshire Eagle.

The workers, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, authorized the strike after nearly a year of negotiations.

Amber Van Bramer, a critical care nurse who is a member of the bargaining committee, told The Berkshire Eagle a growing number of nurses supported a strike authorization.

"People are really happy that we're able to come together," she said. "Even though it is a very stressful situation."

The union would still have to give the hospital at least 10-days notice before a strike could occur.

But the hospital has said it would hire replacement nurses to cover shifts if nurses do walk off the job, according to the report.

"We are naturally disappointed that the MNA has taken this action, but the results are not surprising given the union's record across Massachusetts in taking hospitals out on strike to support their statewide political agenda. In the event of a strike, Berkshire Medical Center is fully prepared to provide all services, procedures and programs, uninterrupted," BMC says in an emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review.

The hospital adds, "We have two additional sessions with the MNA currently scheduled and are hopeful that they will result in a final contract."

Both sides have been in negotiations since last September, with remaining key sticking points being wages and staffing and health insurance. The hospital and union plan to sit down for another negotiating session Tuesday.

A possible strike at BMC comes after approximately 1,200 nurses at Boston-based Tufts Medical Center went on strike earlier this month and a June nurses strike at Greenfield, Mass.-based Baystate Franklin Medical Center. Workers at Baystate Franklin and Tufts are represented by MNA.


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