Mayor, Pittsfield Police keep eye on safety outside BMC

PITTSFIELD — While Berkshire Medical Center officials are working to maintain patient care during Tuesday's nurses strike, Mayor Linda Tyer and city officials are keeping their focus on public safety outside the hospital.

The city's police department will have its hands full as picketing will continue for 24 hours Tuesday, and for 18 hours a day for the next four days.

The mayor's office is working with police to keep the city running smoothly while Massachusetts Nurses Association members picket at BMC on North Street, and its Hillcrest campus on West Street, according to Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Tyer's spokeswoman and director of administrative services. Nurses also are picketing outside the North Adams Campus of BMC.

McCulloch-Dews said the mayor did not yet have any comment about the issues that led to the one-day strike and four-day lockout, which follow a year's worth of failed contract negotiations between BMC and the union.

"The role of the city is to provide safety," she added. "We respect the nurses' right to strike. We are reaffirming that the city will do all that it can to protect the public safety at [this] time."

Police Lt. Gary Traversa said the department is working to keep sidewalks and roads clear and managing traffic in certain spots.

Traversa, who said he hadn't yet been informed of any problems, also said he expected a round-the-clock presence for the 24-hour strike, and picketing from 6 a.m. to midnight for the four-day lockout.

"It definitely puts some stress on personnel," he said.

In shifts, union members are required to be on the picket line for the duration of a strike, according to David Schildmeier, an MNA spokesman.

And Schildmeier said union members plan to show up to work at 7 a.m. Wednesday when the strike is officially over, and try to break the hospital's lockout.

Traversa said police are in close touch with BMC and union officials, and have contingency plans in place in the event of a civil disturbance.

"We're obviously hoping it doesn't get to that point," he said.

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871 or @BE_hbellow.


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