No Nurses' Strike At Berkshire Medical Center, As Tentative Deal Reached

Jun 16, 2018

Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center have called off a second strike planned for June 18 and reached a tentative agreement with the hospital.

The nurses went on strike in October because they said the hospital wasn't listening to their concerns about needing more staff.

Now the hospital has agreed to pay them more money and have more nurses on hand, according to the union.

"All around, we got everything that we had been fighting for since day one," said Amber van Bramer, a nurse at BMC who sat on the bargaining committee

The hospital said in a statement that throughout nearly two years of negotiations, it had "sought an agreement that was fair and reasonable for [the nurses] and sustainable for the hospital and the community."

"With the distraction and divisiveness of strike threats now gone, we look forward to returning our focus solely to delivering the high-quality patient care that our community rightly expects of us," Michael Leary, BMC spokesman, said in a statement.

Another contentious contract dispute came to an end last month when nurses at Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield reached an agreement after a strike and a lockout.

Joe Markman, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nursing Association, which represents nurses at both hospitals, said the union is still in negotiations with other providers in western Massachusetts, including Providence Behavioral Health in Holyoke. But he said no other strikes in the region are planned.

The union is part of a coalition gathering signatures to get a ballot question regarding nursing staffing before voters in November.

Markman said the question would set limits on how many patients a nurse would oversee.

"Depending on the hospital unit, for instance, a nurse in the emergency department or a nurse in the mental health unit, they'd have different maximum limits on the number of patients that they would care for at one time," he said. "And that's to make sure that nurses can have the time to care for patients safely."

The head of the Massachusetts Hospital Association has written that if the measure passes, it would mean higher premiums and deductibles for patients, and hospitals would be forced to cut vital programs.