Yipee!! Brockton Nurses to vote on new contract with limit on Mandatory overtime!

  1. Hospital agreement promises new hires
    Deal to end strike at Brockton puts limits on forced overtime


    By David Abel, and Anne Barnard, Globe Staff, 8/26/2001

    The three-month strike at Brockton Hospital ended after hospital officials promised nurses to make their ''best efforts'' to hire sufficient staff to avoid forced overtime, both sides of the acrimonious dispute said yesterday.

    The surprise deal, the result of a 14-hour negotiation session Friday at the office of Senator John F. Kerry, includes limits on mandatory overtime similar to those that nurses won in the St. Vincent Hospital strike last year. At the Worcester hospital, mandatory overtime is limited to four hours eight times a year.

    The 92-day strike, which won't formally end until nurses vote on the agreement Sept. 4, showed that improving nurses' workplace conditions should be a national priority, Kerry said. He called on both sides to fight against inadequate Medicare payments for hospital services.

    ''My hope is we can combine our energies to point out ... the result of an inadequate health care system,'' he said, calling both the hospital and the nurses ''victims'' and adding, ''You need to recognize who the enemy is.''

    Still, Brockton Hospital officials accepted contract language that spells out management's responsibility to staff at reasonable levels even when nurses are scarce and health care dollars are short.

    ''They're going to hire some additional nurses and set up a structure that implements a different kind of working environment,'' Kerry said. At the same time, the contract makes clear that specific hiring decisions will not be imposed upon the hospital by the union or an arbitrator, he added.

    Reflecting growing national concern that worsening workplace conditions are driving nurses out of the profession, the union had insisted on a written promise not to rely on overtime to plug staffing holes - a contract provision under which nurses could bring labor grievances if they felt the promise was unmet.

    Hospital officials had balked, saying such a promise would unduly restrict their decision-making, especially given the financial pressures they face in a climate where two-thirds of the state's hospitals are in the red.

    Nurses reasoned that if forced overtime was capped but staff was not increased, nurses would either stay late anyway because of legal and moral responsibility or fewer nurses would have to cover more patients.

    ''We were concerned that they were going to reach their cap and there would be nurses taking care of too many patients,'' said Barbara Cooke, a Brockton nurse who was on the negotiating team.

    Because the exact wording of the Brockton deal remains confidential until ratification, it was hard to tell yesterday whether nurses had increased their clout or what the implications would be for other hospitals or for proposed state legislation calling for mandatory staffing levels.

    The hospital's vice president for marketing, Robert Hughes, downplayed the significance of the ''best efforts'' language, saying it left the hospital's hands free because arbitrators are prohibited from mandating specific hiring decisions.

    In May, nurses walked out even after the hospital offered to limit mandatory overtime to the levels the union had demanded - prompting Hughes to accuse the union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, of fomenting an unnecessary strike to seize headlines. The union had just split off from its national parent, the American Nurses Association, which it considered too moderate.

    Yesterday, Hughes said, ''We have said consistently that we think the union had a larger agenda, but now we want to put this behind us and get back to the business of taking care of our patients.''

    Julie Pinkham, the union's executive director, said the strike was a key test of the newly independent organization. ''The world was watching,'' she said, adding that the success of the St. Vincent strike had convinced the union its membership was willing to be more activist around broad health care issues.

    Kerry said the real solutions must be found outside individual hospitals: In the short term, he has proposed a bill to pay for more student loans and financial incentives for nurses. Ultimately, he said, nurses' salaries must be more competitive with those of equally educated professionals.

    The nurses will return after Labor Day if the contract is ratified. The hospital has been using replacement nurses and said business stayed brisk. Union nurses said many patients were going to the hospital's crosstown competitor, Good Samaritan Medical Center, in solidarity.


    This story ran on page 1 of the Boston Globe on 8/26/2001.
    Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


    Copied from Brockton nurse posting at Nursing Spectrum BB:The agreement gives the nurses a 3 percent raise retroactive to Oct. 15, 2000. On Oct. 15 of this year, the nurses will receive a 4.25 percent increase. On Oct. 15, 2002, another 3 percent raise will kick in. Then on April 15, 2003, the nurses will receive a 2.75 percent increase.

    That's a 13 percent total, in four increments, in a contract that expires on Oct. 15, 2003. With the increases, the top current hourly wage of $30.17 during the day will increase to $34.90 on April 15, 2003. Pay rates are higher for evening and night nurses.

    Most nurses at the hospital work 16-hour, 24-hour and 32-hour work weeks, so it is difficult to calculate annual salary increases.

    Kudos to these nurses for sticking to their guns......be interesting to see the mangement reaction, ??shakeup over the next few months. Their CEO deserves to be axed, he TOTALLY mishandled the nurses as you can see by the concessions made, at what price to the patieents, nurses and good will of the community.....They'll be seeing red for quite a while. Hospital still with outstanding POLICE DEPT bill of $1 MILLON, yet alone cost of replacement nurses!!!!! Karen
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