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MNA/NNU Files Charge of Unfair Labor Practice

Massachusetts Nurses Association Press Release, 12/21/12

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MNA/NNU Files Charge of Unfair Labor Practice, with National Labor Rations Board Against UMass Memorial Medical Center Seeks Injunction to Stop UMMC from violating federal labor law by

Forcing Nurses to Work the Christmas Holiday in Violation of their Union Contract and in Retaliation for Nurses Picketing for Safer Staffing Levels

These are nurses who were promised the holiday off, and who have already worked Thanksgiving and will Work New Years

 

Illegal Action Comes After the Hospital Has Implemented A Number of Lay Offs & is Deliberately Understaffing Hospital Floors and Departments to Boost Their Profits, Which Have Increased by 80%

WORCESTER, MA – The Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU) has filed a charge of unfair labor practice and is seeking an injunction with the National Labor Relations Board against UMass Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) for its unprecedented decision to violate the nurses’ union contract and force nurses, who are supposed to have the Christmas Holiday off with their family, to work that day, even though many of these nurses have already worked Thanksgiving, and will be working on New Year’s Day. 

Under the nurses’ union contract, they are only required to work every other holiday.  The decision to violate the contract in this manner and strip nurses of their holiday benefit is unprecedented at UMass, as well as for any other bargaining unit represented by the MNA/NNU in Massachusetts.  It follows a number of layoffs of nursing and support staff in the past two years, the deliberate understaffing of hospital floors and units to boost hospital profits. 

The MNA also contends that the illegal action is being implemented by management in direct retaliation against the nurses for union activity and public criticism of UMMC for poor staffing conditions that are compromising patient safety.  The nurses have been engaged in daily picketing outside the Memorial Hospital campus (Dec. 10- 21) and the nurses have been speaking out publicly about their concerns about the working conditions and the need for staffing improvements to protect patients. 

“Nurses are up in arms over this blatant violation of their rights.  Our management has signed a written agreement to grant nurses specific holiday benefits, and for more than three decades, they have never failed to honor that agreement.  It is also their responsibility to ensure there is enough staff to meet patients  needs.  Now, because they have cut staffing and refused to provide adequate numbers of nurses, they are seeking to meet their obligations by attacking nurses and ruining their Christmas holiday.  This is nothing short of obscene,” said Margaret McLoughlin, RN, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit for the nurses on the University Hospital campus. 

The unfair labor practice charge comes after the 2,000 nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association on the University Hospital and Memorial/Hahnemann campuses of UMNMC have been engaged inmore than  a year of negotiations for a new union contract, with little progress on a number of key issues, including the nurses call for safer RN staffing levels. The nurses are outraged about deteriorating working conditions, a lack of resources, and untenable patient loads following more than six layoffs involving hundreds of RNs and support staff over the last two years. 

The nurses are concerned that these cuts are being made in the wake of the hospital’s posting more than $53 million in profits in 2012, a nearly 80 percent increase over its $29 million profit in 2011. 

“It is unacceptable that  nurses and our patients are being forced to pay the price for penalties incurred by our leaderships’ mismanagement and shady dealings,” said Ellen Smith, an intensive care unit nurse and co-char of the MNA bargaining unit for the nurses on the University campus. 

The nurses and management began negotiations for a new union contract in February 2012  for the University campus nurses, and in November 2011 for the Memorial/Hahnemann campus nurses.  The nurses’ contracts officially expired on December 31,2011 and April 5, 2012 respectively, and the next negotiating session is scheduled for November 9,  2012.  The parties are set to go back to the table after the new year and have negotiating dates scheduled through February. 

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.  The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.

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