Management at Berkshire Health Systems says the latest offer represents their “best and final,” but BMC Nurses are standing their ground over issues of staffing levels, wages, and benefits/
The following information is from a release by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Berkshire Health Systems declined to be interviewed for this story.
Four community groups are sponsoring a public forum for BMC nurses and residents to discuss safe patient care
PITTSFIELD, Mass.—A Community Town Hall on Tuesday night will feature registered nurses from Berkshire Medical Center sharing their concerns about patient safety at the hospital and community members discussing their experiences at BMC.
BMC Safe Patient Care Town Hall
sponsored by the Berkshire Brigades, Berkshire Central Labor Council, Indivisible Pittsfield and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.
Where: First Methodist Church, 55 Fenn Street. in Pittsfield.
When: Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.
“Community members have a right to hear directly from nurses about what is happening inside their hospital,” said RN Alex Neary, Co-Chair of the BMC MNA Bargaining Committee. “This event will give everyone in our community a chance to share their own experience and discuss how we can improve the quality of patient care at BMC.”
“We believe an open and honest public discussion about patient safety at BMC is necessary to move forward in a positive way,” said Brian P. Morrison, President of the Berkshire Central Labor Council. “Berkshire Medical Center was built and paid for by the community and with our tax dollars. The public supports BMC nurses and we urge the hospital to listen to their concerns.”
Nurses have brought their patient safety concerns forward to hospital management in various ways for years, including directly to supervisors, at labor-management meetings and during ongoing negotiations.
BMC RNs have also been documenting this problem using unsafe staffing forms. Between October 1, 2015 and August 21, 2017, nurses completed more than 430 unsafe staffing reports. The reports tell the story time and again: Hospital units short multiple nurses and/or other staff members, patients waiting for hours in the emergency department, patient falls, and critically ill infants with too few nurses to care for them. Hundreds of other incidents have gone undocumented as nurses are typically too busy caring for too many patients to write a report.
Background on Bargaining
BMC nurses are seeking a fair contract that first and foremost protects the quality of patient care. Another key issue is quality and affordable health insurance. BMC has proposed raising by 100 percent how much nurses contribute to individual health insurance premiums. Nurses in BMC’s family health insurance plans already pay 40 to 70 percent more than managers.
Negotiations began in September 2016 and include a federal mediator. More than 25 bargaining sessions have been held. On May 31, nurses rejected the hospital’s “best and final” contract offer by 82 percent. In July, nurses voted 83 percent to authorize a potential one-day strike. The 16-member RN Bargaining Committee has the authority to call for a one-day strike and issue the 10-day strike notice required under federal law.
BMC nurses have also filed three unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Berkshire Health, including threatening to retaliate against nurses if they engage in protected activity and refusing to provide health insurance data necessary for bargaining.
The next negotiation date has been scheduled for September 27.