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Nurses At Two Western Mass. Hospitals Call Off Strikes As Contract Talks Continue

Berkshire Medical Center, part of Berkshire Health Systems, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Unionized nurses at hospitals in Pittsfield and Greenfield, Massachusetts, have called off separate strikes, scheduled for this week. They would have been the second at each facility in the last year.

At Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, nurses felt enough progress had been made in recent talks to cancel their strike and continue negotiations. 

"We had some good talks throughout the day," said Amber Van Bramer, part of the nurses' bargaining unit in Pittsfield. "It was a good environment, which it hasn't been some other times. They did come back with some staffing stuff we wanted -- not all of it, which they hadn't done in the past."

Michael Leary, a spokesman for Berkshire Medical Center, said some of the proposals from the hospital surrounding staffing include not increasing patient loads for registered nurses for the duration of a new contract, as well as insuring charge nurses are only assigned patients under limited circumstances.

"These offers would result in the first staffing language we have agreed to insert in any of our contracts," Leary said.

Negotiations are scheduled to continue next week.

Meanwhile, at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, spokeswoman Shelly Hazlett said hospital officials are pleased the union accepted an offer to resume contract talks in exchange for canceling their strike. Both sides were at the bargaining table on Monday.

Nurses at both facilities have been working without a contract for well over a year.

Nurses hit the picket line in June in Greenfield and in October in Pittsfield. Each was billed as a "one-day strike" by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, but hospital management in both cases locked the nurses out for a number of days afterwards.

The hospitals said this happened because temporary staff brought in for coverage during the strikes were guaranteed a minimum amount of work days as part of their contract.

Nurses at both hospitals still retain the right to give a 10-day strike notice again, should they feel it necessary. 

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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