Steward Health threatened nurses with hospital closing, unfair labor charges allege

Registered nurses at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Mass., have filed unfair labor practice charges at the U.S. National Labor Relations Board's Boston office against Dallas-based Steward Health Care, according to the union that represents them.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association said nurses filed the charges after Steward threatened to close Nashoba Valley unless they accepted the for-profit hospital owner's "final" offer. 

Union representatives said the final offer and threat were delivered via email to the nurses' negotiating team on Aug. 26, two days after Steward canceled negotiating sessions scheduled for last week. The email concluded, "If this offer is not acceptable, NVMC will seriously consider the closure of the hospital."

Federal labor law prohibits an employer from threatening to close a facility as a threat of retaliation and force against employees involved in contract negotiations, the Massachusetts Nurses Association stated, citing sections of the National Labor Relations Act. 

Union representatives said they then requested specific financial information from Steward "to substantiate the need to close the facility," but that Steward "refused to provide the majority of the requested data."

According to the union, Massachusetts is fining Steward for not providing state officials with complete audited financial statements, and courts have taken up the issue because Steward has not paid.

Mary Crotty, a hospital spokesperson, expressed concerns about the pay proposal from nurses, the Nashoba Valley Voice reported in an article on lowellsun.com. 

"There are genuine concerns about the financial impact that the latest wage increase proposal from our valued nurse team members would have on the viability of the hospital itself, both from a service line perspective and generally," she told the newspaper. "The hospital and our valued nurse team members have made progress in nearly every negotiating session, and we hope for that progress to continue. We look forward to continuing these scheduled, good faith negotiations."

Negotiations between the nurses and Steward have continued since December 2018.

 

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