Berkshire Medical Center, nurses reach agreement, avert strike

Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center and nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement June 14, averting a strike and putting an end to a dispute that's lasted more than 20 months.

The tentative deal, which covers 800 nurses, is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2016 and runs through Sept. 30, 2021. It averts a strike planned for June 18 and was reached after three days of marathon bargaining sessions on June 12, 13 and 14.

"We are incredibly proud of this agreement that reflects our priority of improving nurse staffing and patient care," said Alex Neary, RN, co-chair of bargaining unit. "Berkshire Medical Center nurses care deeply about our patients and our community. We owe our success in reaching this agreement to powerful unity among nurses and our community."

Hospital officials also praised the pact.

"From the beginning of contract negotiations 45 sessions and 21 months ago, Berkshire Medical Center has sought an agreement with its registered nurses that was fair and reasonable for them and sustainable for the hospital and the community," they told Becker's Hospital Review. "Having this contract finally settled is, of course, great news for the entire Berkshire community and all hospital employees. We appreciate the solid support that we received from our community and our employees during these challenging months.

"With the distraction and divisiveness of strike threats now gone, we look forward to returning our focus solely to delivering the high quality patient care that our community rightly expects of us."

The agreement, which must be ratified by the nurses, includes "language that will help keep charge nurses free to fulfill the role of the charge nurse," as well as an agreement from the hospital to add a total of 9.5 full-time equivalent nursing positions to four areas, the union said. It also includes pay increases.

Both sides reached the agreement more than a year after beginning negotiations 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. Before the planned strike, a group of medical center employees urged their RN colleagues to reconsider.

 

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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