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Nurses at Pittsfield hospital plan one-day strike

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is planning its third labor strike of the year, this time at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.

The union, which represents about 800 nurses at Berkshire, said Friday that it would stage a one-day strike on Oct. 3 to protest what it calls unfair labor practices. If the strike occurs, hospital executives plan to lock out the nurses for four additional days and use temporary replacement workers.

“With the community behind us, we are prepared to strike on October 3 for patient safety and a fair contract,” said Alex Neary, a nurse and cochair of the union bargaining committee, in a statement. “All other efforts to persuade management to make concrete patient safety improvements and reach a fair agreement have been unsuccessful. It is up to [Berkshire Medical Center] to negotiate in good faith and avoid a strike.”


Executives at the hospital’s parent company, Berkshire Health Systems, said they were disappointed but not surprised to receive a strike notice.

The union “continues to mislead our community and those who depend on Berkshire Medical Center for their care and employment,” said David Phelps, the chief executive, and Diane Kelly, chief operating officer, in a statement. “We have bargained in good faith, offering a strong contract for our nurses.”

A strike still could be avoided if both sides reach a deal before it is scheduled to begin. They plan to continue contract negotiations Wednesday.

The nurses union went on strike earllier this summer at Baystate Health’s hospital in Greenfield.
The nurses union went on strike earllier this summer at Baystate Health’s hospital in Greenfield.Dave Roback/The Republican/File 2017

The nurses union carried out strikes earlier this year at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Baystate Health’s hospital in Greenfield.

The strike at Tufts involved 1,200 nurses and stretched for five days. Following the union’s one-day action, the hospital kept out union members and employed temporary replacement workers for four more days.

After a cooling-off period of more than six weeks, representatives from Tufts and the union are back at the bargaining table. They have yet to agree on a new contract.


The issues of contention in all three labor disputes have been similar. At Berkshire, nurses say they’re most concerned about their staffing levels and health insurance. The Pittsfield hospital has not had a nurses strike since 1981, when one lasted 69 days.

“This community can have full confidence that BMC will continue to provide all services and procedures during a strike, and that patients and their families will have safe and unimpeded access to our facilities,” hospital officials said Friday.

The union is also pushing a statewide ballot question to set nurse staffing limits.

In 2016, the nurses union planned a strike at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but that was narrowly avoided after both sides reached a deal.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.