Berkshire Medical Center nurses to go on strike Oct. 3

Nearly 800 Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center registered nurses will go on strike Oct. 3 after roughly a year-long negotiation with the hospital, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

The nurses, represented by the Canton-based Massachusetts Nurses Association, delivered the required strike notice to the hospital Friday. The nurses said they plan to strike for 24 hours beginning Oct. 3.

"BMC nurses have been bargaining in good faith for a year, seeking to ensure that their patients are able to receive the safest and most effective nursing care possible. The hospital has refused to negotiate over concrete improvements to patient care and RN staffing. BMC management has also refused to provide information necessary for nurses to negotiate quality, affordable health insurance," MNA said in a statement Sept. 22.

David E. Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Medical Center, and Diane Kelly, RN, COO of Berkshire Medical Center, said in a statement to Becker's Hospital Review they believe MNA misrepresented BMC's handling of the negotiations and they are disappointed by the nurses' plan to strike.

"We have bargained in good faith, offering a strong contract for our nurses … We of course hope that the union will not go through with its strike threat, which would result in a great financial cost to the health system," they said in a joint statement.

The hospital officials told Becker's their most recent bargaining offer granted nurses a 10 percent raise during the next three years, and starting RN salaries would rise from $73,000 during the first year of employment to $75,000 in year three. "Mid-scale" and "maximum-scale" RN nurses would make $116,000-plus per year beginning in their third year. Officials also said the pact included additional support for education and a higher pay differential.

Mr. Phelps and Ms. Kelly told Becker's following MNA's decision to hold a strike authorization vote several months ago, the hospital hired replacement workers for a minimum five-day contract to ensure the facility would remain operational. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also approved the hospital's strike plan.

Should BMC nurses continue with their plan to strike, they would be out from Oct. 3 through Oct. 7, even if the planned strike only lasts for 24 hours, according to the report.

The next bargaining session between hospital officials and nurses is reportedly scheduled for Sept. 27.


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