WESTFIELD – Baystate Health announced late last week that the 130 registered nurses at Baystate Noble Hospital have agreed to a new four-year contract. The nurse’s previous contract expired on March 31, 2016. The new contract will be effective through March 31, 2020.
According to the press release from the Mass Nurses Association, here are the details of the new contract:
Nurse Staffing/Safe Patient Care
- Language requiring Noble take steps to relieve nurses from duty so they can take meal breaks they are legally allowed under Mass. law. This agreement helps ensure nurses are not working beyond their capacity to provide safe and effective patient care.
- Contract language committing the hospital to comply with the state’s ICU law that limits how many patients an ICU nurse can care for at one time.
- Nurses will no longer be required to work more than two on-call shifts per week, also helping to ensure nurses are working at their best capacity when caring for patients.
- Language requiring nurses to be given at least eight consecutive hours of off-duty time immediately after they work 16 consecutive hours. Nurses also shall not be allowed to exceed 16 consecutive hours worked in a 24-hour period. National best practices of nursing care recommend against nurses working beyond 12 hours in a row due to patient safety concerns and Massachusetts law prohibits nurses from working more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period.
- Substantially improved health plans with a new open enrollment period in January 2018.
- Across-the-board wage increases each year. For most, 2.2% on the first full pay period after the contract was approved, then 1.25% on 4/1/2018 and 1.25% on 4/1/19.
- Significant “wage step” upward adjustments for RNs whose pay steps were frozen for up to four years when the Hospital was going through difficult financial times. The agreement returns those RNs to the proper step for their total years of service.
- Improved educational reimbursement so that nurses can advance their practices.
- Improved pay differentials, such as on-call, PM/night shift, weekend, precepting, charge pay and differentials based on education and certifications.
- Language protecting rights of LGBTQ staff.
No Hospital Takeaways
- No reduction in holidays or vacation days that had previously been proposed by the hospital.
- No diminishment in OT rules that had previously been proposed by the hospital.
Reported by the Westfield News on January 11, the Mass Nurses Association held an informational picket for the Noble nurses to make people aware of some issues they had with their contracts.
One of the issues was patient care as nurses at Noble took a survey on January 9 and 94% of them said that their unit was short-staffed some or most of the time. It was also noted that some nurses would go without breaks or lunch breaks since they were understaffed and would have to do numerous tasks.
Another key issue was health insurance. Nurses at the picket rally wanted to see more than one health insurance option, which was a one-year plan with HMO (Health Maintenance Organization). This means that the nurses will need the majority of their health care to be from a network provider.
The nurses were satisfied with the specifics of the new contract.
“We are proud of this agreement and what it will mean for our quality of patient care,” said Pam Fournier, RN and Co-Chair of the MNA Baystate Noble Bargaining Unit in the press release. “By standing together, our nurses were able to successfully negotiate a fair contract that values the patient care nurses provide and respects our contribution to the hospital.”
Ron Bryant, the President and Chief Administrative Officer of Baystate Noble, issued a statement about reaching a new contract with the nurses.
“The entire Baystate Noble Hospital leadership team is pleased to have reached an agreement that both provides our nurses with market competitive wages and benefits and reflects a shared understanding of staffing and quality goals,” said Bryant. “We appreciate the collaborative and collegial process that got us to this point. Together, our entire team has remained focused on the most important goal, providing quality care to our community. We look forward to moving forward together.”