Haverhill Nurses File Unfair Labor Practice Against Hospital

Holy Family Hospital, Haverhill campus. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Nurses at Haverhill’s Holy Family Hospital at Merrimack Valley say they have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the hospital’s refusal to bargain a new union contract.

Registered nurses, represented by Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, said officials who have been sent to bargaining meetings have been given no authority by the company to negotiate. They called it an “illegal effort to stonewall the negotiations with the nurses and deprive them of any wage or benefit increase comes at a time when the combined Holy Family Hospital Haverhill and Methuen campuses posted profits of more than $14 million and a profit margin of 8 percent, which is double the state average for the state’s acute care hospitals.”

“The nurses of Merrimack Valley Hospital feel disrespected by Steward’s refusal to negotiate in good faith, particularly in light of the great sacrifices all the nurses have made to ensure this hospital’s most recent financial success,” said Jane Emery, a nurse in the hospital’s Med/Surg. Telemetry unit and co-chair of the MNA local bargaining unit for HFHMV. “We have been here for this hospital through thick and thin. When the hospital was losing money, we took zero percent wage increases in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – three years in a row. We agreed to this because we care for the people of this community. But now that the company is making millions, they treat nurses like they have no use for us, and now nurses are resigning faster than we can hire.”

Hospital owner Steward said the complaint is being reviewed.

“Holy Family Hospital is proud of the quality care provided by hospital doctors, nurses, and staff to our patients every day, and we take pride in the collaborative work we have done with multiple unions to continue improving care and jobs within the facility. We will review this complaint carefully and look forward to continuing our ongoing negotiations with the nurses on Friday,” said Jean MacDougall-Tattan, spokesperson.

Nurses said the hospital’s refusal to provide “a meaningful wage and benefit package is now impacting Steward’s ability to recruit and retain the staff.”  In the last year, as many as 27 nurses have left the facility, a high turnover rate of more than 20 percent, union officials said.

“We are very proud of the quality of care we provide at Merrimack Valley.  But we have had so many nurses leave in just the past six months that the hospital administration literally has been turning away patients and sending them to other hospitals on days when we don’t have the staff available to meet the demand. It’s a shame the way management is driving away nurses and limiting our ability to serve this community,” Emery said.

They added, Steward is reneging on a contractual promise made in 2014 to provide Merrimack Valley Hospital nurses access to a defined pension benefit plan in this new agreement. Merrimack Valley Hospital is the only hospital, of the 52 acute care facilities represented by the MNA, which does not have an employer financed retirement plan.

Nurses appeared before the Haverhill City Council March 22, to promote the hospital and encourage the city and the community to use it since it provides some the shortest emergency department wait times in the state.

MNA represents a total of 145 registered nurses at Merrimack Valley Hospital. The nurses’ previous contract with the hospital expired March 31, but was extended through May 31. The next negotiating session with the hospital is scheduled for June 10.