Berkshire Medical Center nurses authorize potential one-day strike

Registered nurses at Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center are moving closer to a potential strike.

The nearly 800 BMC workers, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, voted for a second time in the past 12 months to authorize a potential one-day strike if necessary, union officials said in a statement. The vote was 82 percent in favor of strike authorization. Nurses would still have to call a strike for one to occur. If nurses decided to strike, they must give the hospital 10 days notice.

"Our community and our patients need to be able to hold Berkshire Medical Center accountable for providing safe patient care at all times," Alex Neary, co-chair of the BMC RN Bargaining Committee, said in the statement. "We brought our concerns to the public with a one-day strike in October and since then hospital administrators have refused to move on our key issues. This is completely unacceptable. It is why today nurses have sent a clear message to BMC: Negotiate a fair contract that protects our patients."

The news comes about a week after the MNA revealed workers would hold a strike authorization vote. At the time, Brenda Cadorette, RN, vice president of acute care and CNO at the hospital, expressed surprise and disappointment in the union's decision to hold the vote.

"Our positive experience in the three negotiating sessions since October led us to believe that we could work collaboratively with the union," she said in a letter to RNs Monday, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

"We were, therefore, both surprised and disappointed to learn that the MNA had scheduled votes on Jan. 11 and 16 to authorize a second strike."

Both sides have been in contract negotiations since September 2016. Nurses went on strike in October 2017. Following that one-day strike, nurses were prevented from working for an additional four days because the hospital hired replacement workers for a minimum five-day contract.

Now, months after the October strike, staffing issues persist, according to nurses. The Berkshire Eagle reports the union requested "charge" nurses are not assigned direct care of patients, so they can help other nurses fill staffing needs.

Another negotiating session, with a federal mediator, is slated for Jan. 25.

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review reached out to BMC and will post additional details as they become available.



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