Nurses to strike at Berkshire Medical Center by end of February

About 800 unionized registered nurses at the 302-bed Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, have warned they’ll hold a one-day strike on Feb. 27 unless quick progress is made in contract negotiations that have already lasted 17 months.

This is the second one-day walkout authorized by members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The first strike, held Oct. 3, 2017, was followed by a four-day lockout.

The Berkshire Eagle reported one of the remaining sticking points holding up a new contract agreement is the role of charge nurses overseeing shift changes. The union wants a policy in place saying charge nurses won’t be given patient assignments, arguing it would allow them to assist other nurses on the same shift with their caseloads. The hospital said that’s generally its practice now but argued making it a formal rule would be “highly restrictive” and “not prudent” for it to accept.

“As we all know, the work demands on each of us change from day-to-day and even over the course of a single day because of unexpected circumstances, including spikes in patient census, unusual changes in patient acuity and unscheduled absences of our colleagues,” the hospital said in a letter to employees.

The hospital said another one-day walkout would cost the facility $4 million.

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