GREENFIELD — Both sides in the ongoing labor dispute here at Baystate Franklin Medical Center say they’d be making a lot more progress if they were sitting across the table from someone who had only local interests at heart.
Registered Nurse Donna Stern, co-chair of the union’s bargaining unit, said during a street side rally Monday, “This isn’t about us. This is about the executives down in Springfield.”
Meanwhile, hospital president Cindy Russo said the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s call for the hospital to hire more nurses and increase staff levels is part of a statewide push by the labor union to increase its own ranks.
The 240 nurses in the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Baystate Franklin Medical Center have been negotiating since November 2016. Their contract with the 90-bed Baystate Franklin facility expired in January.
The nurses union says issues include staffing, the system of earned time off and the cost of health insurance. Nurses say the cost of their health care would rise 26 percent under Baystate’s proposal.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association had declared a one day strike for Monday. But Baystate says it can only contract with replacement workers for three days. So Baystate locked out the nurses starting 7 p.m. Sunday night.
Replacement nurses hired from outside the area will be on the job through 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28.
A noontime rally outside the hospital featured speakers, including State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who represents parts of Berkshire and Franklin counties.
Inside, the hospital was open and doctors there performed their scheduled list of procedures plus one procedure that was scheduled after the strike, said Baystate’s Russo.
The hospital will remain open and operating as normal, according to Baystate officials. Nine expectant mothers are due to deliver at Baystate Franklin before Friday.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health had an inspector on scene Monday, Russo said. That is standard procedure when there is a strike.
Russo said hospitals are under financial pressure with low reimbursements from Medicare and the as-yet-unknown impacts of the Republican-backed federal health care bills.
She said the staffing requirements the union wants would rob the hospital of flexibility to respond to changing patient head counts and levels of sickness among those patients.
Baystate calculates that only 14 of about 240 nurses worked 40 hours a week last year for a total of 2,080 hours.
Baystate Franklin has an average base pay for a nurse at the Greenfield hospital is $40.88 per hour, according to the hospital. The union has said most nurses work between 24 and 32 hours a week.