Union nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts have ended a one-day strike staged after failing to reach a contract agreement with Baystate officials. Contract disputes between union nurses and Baystate may still be far from over.
Contract negotiations between union nurses and Baystate management have been going on for nearly a year, and nurses have been working under an expired contract since December 31st. Harris Freeman is associate professor of legal research at Western New England University. He says that both sides currently have an obligation to bargain in good faith, but if negotiations reach an impasse, nurses could stage an extended strike.
“And the employer can of course do the same by closing its doors to the unionized work force. We haven’t seen that play out yet, but that’s one possibility that certainly exists under the framework of U.S. labor law.”
Freeman says Baystate could issue a “last best offer.” If negotiations are at an impasse, and nurses do not accept the offer, Baystate could then choose to lockout the union nurses and potentially bring in permanent non-union replacements. Freeman says contract disputes like this are not unusual.
“The fact that sometimes contracts take a long time to reach is a reality, and that’s what we’re seeing play out here.”
Union nurses at Baystate Franklin filed unfair labor practice charges against Baystate with the National Labor Relations Board in late August. The board has yet to rule.