Union nurses at Berkshire Medical Center postpone strike

Nurses at Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center have withdrawn their notice to strike Feb. 27.

In a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, union officials said nurses agreed to withdraw their one-day strike notice Feb. 22 after progress in negotiations with BMC.

The nearly 800 BMC nurses had planned to strike Feb. 27 after unsuccessful attempts to resolve contract issues such as staffing and health insurance. However, the MNA said strike plans were postponed after the hospital agreed nurse staffing grids will not worsen over the course of the contract. 

BMC said in a statement to Becker's Hospital Review the hospital specifically agreed to keep staffing grids "in a way that would [not] increase the number of patients assigned to" nurses. They said BMC also  clarified that the hospital generally would not expect clinical team leaders and permanent charge nurses to take a patient assignment unless there were limited circumstances, "and then with limited duration." Additionally, the hospital said it proposed extending the contract end date to Sept. 30, 2020, along with pay increases.

"We are pleased that the strike has been postponed as a result of our new offer and we are proud of our negotiating team, which has worked so hard over the past year and a half, and [Feb. 22] met for an extensive period to offer a package that is fair to all," the hospital's statement reads. "We are continuing to negotiate and hopeful that we can find a resolution."

Both sides have been in negotiations since September 2016. BMC Nurses went on strike in October 2017 and last month they voted to authorize another potential 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 MNA said nurses could still decide to re-issue their strike notice if a contract is not reached. Union officials said nurses still seek "language that commits management to improving staffing levels and improve patient care conditions," as well as an agreement on health insurance. In the meantime, nurses have planned a vigil for Feb. 26 to advocate for a fair agreement with management and patient safety improvements.


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