Berkshire Medical Center Nurses On Strike

Oct 3, 2017

About 800 unionized nurses with Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield held a one-day strike Tuesday. It's the latest in a more than year-long contract dispute between the nurses and the hospital centered around staffing levels.

Sandra Vosburgh works in the maternity ward. She said on her unit, one position has gone unfilled for 10 months, which is making it difficult to care for patients.

"I'm a charge nurse, but I'm also responsible for a full patient assignment, which no longer gives me the ability to have a scope of the floor and support other nurses that need a second pair of hands, to receiver any further admissions throughout the shift," Vosburgh said. "We are working bare bones."

A spokesman for Berkshire Medical Center, Michael Leary, said nurse staffing levels are subject for negotiation in the future.

"We're focusing this week on our continuing commitment to provide uninterrupted care and we're not going to be in any kind of a phase to think about the next negotiating session until we are able to complete this," Leary said.

More than 240 temporary nurses have been brought in to help cover during the strike. They will remain on the job through Saturday, Leary said, as they are guaranteed a minimum number of work days. 

The situation has grown tense between the union and Berkshire Medical Center in recent weeks. The nurses levied a number of unfair labor practice charges against the hospital, and Berkshire Medical last week lost a bid in federal court to have the strike halted.

This is the third strike staged by the Massachusetts Nurses Association this year, with others taking place in Greenfield and Boston.