A large gathering of nurses hit the picket lines on Wednesday hours before the 28th negotiating session between the hospital and Baystate Franklin Medical nurses was held.
Several nurses from around the state joined in the protest because they were in Springfield for an annual conference.
"What we're saying to Baystate is that we want to negotiate, we want to avert a strike," said Co-Chairman of the MNA Bargaining Unit Donna Stern.
More than 200 registered nurses at Baystate Franklin, the Baystate Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice have been in contract negotiations with the hospital for months. For most of them it's been almost a year, but a small portion of the group has been in a contract dispute for 20 months.
"It's been very frustrating and long and tedious," said Co-Chairman of the MNA Bargaining Unit Linda Judd.
After 27 failed negotiation sessions, nurses at Baystate Franklin have scheduled a 24-hour strike on Friday. But, there will be one final chance tonight to come to an agreement before that happens. As of right now, one of the major sticking points between the parties seems to be on overtime policies.
"They don't want to pay beyond the shift work and when you don't pay, you don't pay attention to the staffing problems, you don't pay attention to the holes, you don't pay attention to the dangerous practices," said Stern.
"At this point the nurses have been unwilling to discuss alternatives or options or compromise around that. We have offered a compromise, and we are very interested in talking about that," said President of Baystate Regional Markets Chuck Gijanto.
Nurses say the new policies do not provide a safe working environment. But, hospital officials say that's not the case.
"Under the existing conditions, if somebody works extra hours and gets time and a half it's safe. And under the new provisions, if they work a few extra hours and don't get time and a half, the insinuation is somehow that that's not safe. And, there's no change to that. It is the same nurses giving the same care," said Gijanto.
For now the one thing that both parties can certainly agree on is that they want to end these negotiations as soon as possible.
"I want it more than anything," said Judd. "I do not want to go on strike. I have been a nurse for 37 years at the hospital in Greenfield and I never thought this would happen."
"Everybody is ready to finalize these and move on and get back to life as normal," Gijanto said.
The 28th negotiation session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday. If an agreement is not made, the nurses at Baystate Franklin plan to go on strike for 24 hours this Friday.
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