State board sides with nurses union
The Massachusetts Nurses Association today hailed a ruling by the state's Employment Relations Board as a "complete victory" for its member nurses at Cambridge Hospital who are seeking to negotiate a labor contract with the hospital's operator, the Cambridge Health Alliance.
In a statement, the Cambridge Health Alliance expressed disappointment and said it is reviewing its legal options in regards to its next step.
The two sides have been locked in a dispute for several months. In June, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a nurses union that represents nearly 400 nurses at Cambridge Hospital, rejected a contract offer from the Cambridge Health Alliance because it contained a provision to cut retiree health benefits for most nurses by about 40 percent, a recent Globe story noted.
The union lodged an unfair labor practice charge against the hospital group after it declared an impasse in contract bargaining. In a series of decisions, the Employment Relations Board ruled that the Cambridge Health Alliance violated state law by breaking off contract talks.
A press release from the nurses union included a statement from Betty Kaloustian, a nurse at the hospital and chair of the nurses' local bargaining unit.
“We are thrilled and vindicated by the board’s ruling,” Kaloustian said. “The board got it right. Our employer had an obligation to negotiate with us, and they chose not to."
In its statement today, the Cambridge Health Alliance, or CHA, noted that is operating "under serious economic threat" and is forced to make cost cuts such as the ones it is seeking to include in a new contract with the nurses at Cambridge Hospital. CHA added that fiscal 2009 ended with the largest deficit in its history.
CHA, whose safety net hospitals, serve a large population of Medicaid patients and low-income immigrants, is seeking a buyer or an affiliation with another Boston area health care provider, a recent Globe story noted.
In a statement today, CHA chief executive Dennis D. Keefe said, "While we remain ready and eager to return to the bargaining table and develop a mutually agreeable labor contract, we need to be clear that MNA's (the Massachusetts Nurses Association's) rejection of CHA's reasoned proposal threatens CHA's future."