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December 2, 2015

Nashoba nurses ratify first union contract

Photo Courtesy MNA MNA members are pictured at the National Registered Nurses Day of Action in 2009. The nurses at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer joined the union in 2014.

After staging a picket in August amid stalled contract negotiations with Steward Health Care System, registered nurses at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer have ratified a contract with Steward — their first since they voted to unionize with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) in July 2014.

The nurses were fighting for wage increases and a better deal on health insurance, as well as changes to how nurses’ shifts are scheduled. They also complained that the hospital employed scheduling practices that allowed managers to call nurses in to work on short notice, made planning for child care and time off difficult. A tentative agreement was settled on November 13 and a vote yesterday to ratify the contract made it effective immediately.

According to a statement from the MNA, the new, three-year contract includes wages increases that will increase nurses’ wages by 25 percent; a decrease in the cost of nurses’ health insurance and access to health insurance for part-time nurses; language that guarantees paid overtime and agreements about staffing practices that will lead to more predictable schedules. The contract runs through Dec. 31, 2018.

Suzanne Fluet, co-chair of the MNA bargaining unit at Nashoba Valley, said in an interview over the summer that a market analysis performed by the union found that wages were, on average, 35 percent lower at the hospital than at comparable Massachusetts hospitals, which made it difficult to recruit and retain nurses.

“We really hope that this agreement will help improve recruitment and retention of nurses and we hope that will make the care we provide to the community better than ever,” said Fran Karaska, the other co-chair of the MNA bargaining unit.

Brooke Thurston, a Steward spokeswoman, said in a statement Steward is pleased to have finalized a contract with Nashoba Valley nurses.

"In the past year, we have signed multi-year contracts with the MNA that include annual pay increases and very generous health insurance benefits at four other Steward hospitals," Thurston added.


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