Mass. hospital has filed grievance against nurses

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- North Adams Regional Hospital officials have filed a grievance against the local chapter of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, alleging the union refuses "to bargain in good faith."

The grievance, which was filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday, states that union officials have acted in "bad faith throughout the course of the bargaining -- repeatedly starting bargaining sessions hours late, flatly rejecting nearly all of the hospital's proposals without offering counterproposals and refusing to even discuss the reasons for rejecting most of the hospital's proposals.

"At the most recent session, June 24, the MNA negotiator flatly refused to even listen to the hospital's proposals and refused to explain the union's objection to the proposals, thus creating a bargaining impasse," said Paul Hopkins, hospital spokesman, on Monday. "The National Labor Relations Act requires employers and unions to meet and bargain in good faith over any issues affecting wages, benefits and working conditions."

However, union officials said they have been bargaining in good faith, and that it was the hospital's negotiating team that walked away from the table on Thursday.

"The last time we met with the hospital, the first statement from their negotiator was that they did not have a complete proposal," Robin O'Hearn, union chairwoman and a registered nurse at the hospital, said Monday. "They wanted to put their proposal out there piecemeal. They did not bring a complete counterproposal. There was nothing for us to respond to."

The union's three-year contract expired March 31. The two sides have been at the bargaining table since January, meeting nine times in the last five months. The hospital had originally filed a charge of "refusing to bargain in good faith" against the union on March 23, but subsequently withdrew it without prejudice on April 2, when a federal mediator was called in to facilitate the collective bargaining meetings.

"While we were in caucus, we received word through the federal mediator that the hospital's negotiating team had excused themselves and had said that they would see [us] on July 6. That's how they left it," O'Hearn said.

She added: "The hospital's negotiating team has told us that there are specific points to hospital proposals that must be in the contract in some form or another. They said these concessions must be in the contract without consideration of the nurses' need to have incomes, families and medical insurance. These concessions would radically change our lives and be harmful to our patients."

Hopkins said hospital officials could not comment on the proposals that have been offered during the negotiation process. Both sides have filed grievances with the National Labor Relations Board. Hospital officials filed a grievance in May, alleging that the union unlawfully retaliated against the hospital by taking two grievances to arbitration just two days after a collective bargaining session. Union officials filed a grievance at the beginning of the month alleging that comments made by Northern Berkshire Healthcare CEO Richard Palmisano during a monthly "professional day" left several nurses feeling "emotionally and physically harassed and intimidated."



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