NARH nurses, management at stalemate
NORTH ADAMS -- As a strike Friday by registered nurses continues to loom for North Adams Regional Hospital, bargaining talks between the nurses union and hospital management remained at impasse late Tuesday night after a full day and night of negotiations.
"As of right now, the strike is still on," said Ruth O'Hern, chairwoman of the local unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "They've asked us to postpone it, to allow them to work out what they need to work out while we continue to go to work, but I don't see that happening."
While O'Hern said she did not expect a settlement overnight, both sides were still at the table, and some concessions had been made from each.
O'Hern said a major sticking point was that management was still demanding contract language that would allow nurses to be sent home with only one hour's pay if they were not needed or if the hospital census was low, and for management to cancel up to 16 work shifts per nurse per year.
Hospital spokesman Paul Hopkins said management would have no comment until negotiations were complete.
Registered nurses have been without a contract since March 31. Negotiations began in January but came to a standstill in July, after which the union announced its intention to strike. The hospital has been recruiting replacement workers.
Nurses were very upset, O'Hern said, that hospital employees received a memo on Monday informing all staff that paychecks would not be issued this Wednesday, as usual, but on Friday, due to a payroll processing error. Anyone not reporting to the hospital building Friday would be mailed their checks, O'Hern said everyone was told.
About 70 of the 103 registered nurses in the union attended talks during the day Tuesday, and "they are very strong in their support," said O'Hern, who has been a nurse at NARH for 11 years.
According to O'Hern, the nurses made some concessions in contract language Tuesday, including matching the exact language in the contract agreed upon by the local Service Employees International Union at the hospital earlier this year. Management did not agree, she said.
"They have not given us a complete counter proposal yet, but at this point they are not matching the SEIU language," she said.
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