Registered nurses at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Merrimack Valley plan to hold a one-day strike later this month as they attempt to negotiate their first contract since organizing as a union last year.
The nurses at the institute located in Methuen are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. In a letter on Friday, the union informed Dana-Farber’s chief nursing officer that the nurses will picket Sept. 27 at the facility, beginning at 6:30 a.m., unless a deal is reached.
In a statement, the union said it is seeking a contract that provides “secured benefits and competitive pay” for the nurses.
“Dana-Farber executives have left us with no other choice but to schedule a one-day strike to ensure nurses are properly valued and patients continue to have excellent cancer care available in Merrimack Valley,” Kate Mitchell, a family nurse practitioner at the Merrimack Valley facility, said in the statement.
“Our number one goal is to provide patients with the advanced cancer and blood disorder treatments they need. Dana-Farber has the resources to make sure nurses are empowered to provide that essential care and should settle a fair contract.”
The next negotiation session is scheduled for Tuesday, and further meetings are expected before the planned strike, the union said.
In a statement provided by Ellen Berlin, Dana-Farber’s senior director for external communications, the cancer institute said it has been negotiating “in good faith” since bargaining began in December. A federal mediator joined the negotiations in July.
“We are disappointed that despite Dana-Farber offering a generous compensation and benefit package and remaining at the table, the Merrimack Valley nurses and nurse practitioners are planning a one-day strike,” the statement said,
“Now, as always, we remain committed to working toward a fair and equitable agreement and look forward to continuing negotiations at the session scheduled next week.”
Dana-Farber opened its Methuen location in 2020 with 24 exam rooms and 32 infusion bays, offering cancer and blood disorder care and outpatient services for adults, the union said.
Registered nurses at the facility voted to form a union and join the MNA in June and July 2022. The nurses association also represents approximately 600 nurses at Dana-Farber’s main campus in Boston, but the National Labor Relations Board decided the Merrimack Valley bargaining unit should be separate, a Dana-Farber statement said.
The Boston nurses will be negotiating wage increases in October, a union spokesperson said.
Multiple rounds of negotiations with a federal mediator have so far failed to result in a deal for the Merrimack Valley nurses, and in August, the nurses voted 33-1 to authorize a strike, according to the union.
Joe Markman, associate director of communications for the nurses association, said the union has proposed a wage scale with 4.5 percent increases each year, which would be competitive with other Merrimack Valley wage scales and is about 10 to 12 percent less than the wage scales for Boston-based Dana-Farber nurses.
Dana-Farber’s proposed top step would be between 22 and 30 percent less than what is paid to Boston-based nurses, depending on their job title, Markman said in an email.
Markman said Dana-Farber has refused to pay nurses overtime for hours beyond their shift and offer retirement benefits and vacation time that are comparable to what Boston-based Dana-Farber nurses receive.
The threat of a strike at the Dana-Farber facility came a day after the renowned cancer institute announced plans with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to build a new inpatient hospital for adult cancer care in Boston, ending its decades-long relationship with Brigham and Women’s.
“This plan will cost many millions of dollars, while DFCI refuses to make reasonable investments in its existing nurse and nurse practitioner workforce in Merrimack Valley,” the union’s statement said.