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Nurses union protests Boston Medical Center cuts

Unionized nurses at Boston Medical Center are protesting a new round of job cuts, following a hospital decision to shut down an acute-injury rehabilitation unit on July 1.

Overall, the Boston University teaching hospital will eliminate nearly 40 positions, including 31 full-time equivalent positions at the rehab unit and about nine others from closing beds and converting double rooms to single rooms at the hospital’s Newton Pavilion.

With more than 300 open positions at the hospital, however, Boston Medical Center officials said many of the nurses and therapists whose jobs are being cut may be reassigned.

David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents unionized nurses at the South End hospital, said Boston Medical Center officials have refused to take seriously union proposals to ease the impact of the job cuts, such as offering early retirement incentives for older nurses and training programs to help younger nurses move to other jobs.

Union members earlier this month agreed to a one-year extension of their current contract with Boston Medical Center. The medical center was formed through the 1996 merger of Boston City Hospital and neighboring University Hospital.

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Schildmeier said the cuts will ripple through the medical center, since those with seniority who lose jobs can move into positions held by less senior nurses.

“There’s going to have to be a bumping process, and we’re just trying to come up with some creative ways to ease that process,” Schildmeier said. “We went to them with legitimate plans, and they wouldn’t even consider it. It’s been a pattern of behavior we’ve seen from them.”

Boston Medical Center officials, however, said they didn’t think the union’s proposals could be applied to the current situation.

The hospital “remains committed to continuing to work with the [union] on innovative approaches,” said Boston Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Watson. “In this particular instance, we believe and expect that many of the current impacted employees will assume new roles at Boston Medical Center.”

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Watson said the moves were “necessary to ensure that Boston Medical Center has the flexibility to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible and to preserve the hospital’s mission.”


Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.