The Recorder – Baystate nurses hand-deliver petitions for better pay, protections

Published: 4/28/2022 4:35:33 PM

Modified: 4/28/2022 4:34:05 PM

WESTFIELD — Nurses from Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield were accompanied by Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) representatives as they delivered a petition this week to the workplace of Baystate Health’s trustee chair to demand better protections and pay.

Six people traveled to 68 Union St. in Westfield, the corporate headquarters of Elm Electrical — the company led by Baystate Health board of trustees Chair Robert Bacon — to hand over the petition printed on a banner. Bacon was not at the headquarters and the petitioners left the banner with his assistant.

The banner, described by nurse Suzanne Love as “4 feet across by many, many feet long,” had the petitioners’ demands on it as well as the names of the 650 signees, which included nurses and community members. Love, an emergency room nurse who serves on the negotiating committee, said that Bacon’s assistant was very receptive and said she would hang up the banner in the office.

“She was really nice,” Love said.

When contacted by the Greenfield Recorder, Baystate Health declined to comment on the petition at this time.

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, nurses at Baystate Franklin have been negotiated a new MNA contract, their first since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The nurses are concerned about the approach Baystate Health has taken in negotiations so far. The petition can be found at massnurses.org/BFMCpetition.

“While BFMC staff put their lives on the line to care for our community, Baystate Health corporate executives have not given caregivers the respect and resources they deserve,” the petition reads. “Unlike most hospitals, BFMC refused to offer health care workers alternative housing that would have kept their families safe. Baystate has refused to pay frontline workers fair wages that keep up with inflation but has spent years offering executives excessive pay and bonus packages.”

Love said Baystate Franklin nurses have the lowest starting pay in the state, and the entire county would benefit from higher wages for nurses. She said this would increase staffing retention and help keep care local.

Donna Stern, a registered nurse in the mental health unit at Baystate Franklin and co-chair of the MNA, previously told the Recorder negotiations started at the end of 2021. She said travel nurses at Baystate get paid roughly $5,000 per week, but local nurses were offered a 1.25% salary increase in the first year of the pandemic.

“That was their way of thanking us — a 1.25% (raise),” she said previously. “It’s a slap in the face.”

Nykole Roche, MNA’s associate director, has said even the most senior Baystate Franklin nurses make about half the amount that travel nurses earn.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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