Negotiations between Saint Vincent Hospital and the Mass. Nurses Association

Saint Vincent Hospital started talks on a new contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Association in October 2019, more than 18 months ago. Since then there have been 33 formal sessions, with a suspension of four months in the early months of the pandemic.

Throughout the negotiations, we listened attentively to our nurses and made successive, increasing offers to the MNA. We presented the best proposal in ten years that comprehensively addresses wages, including increases as high as 36% for some nurses, and increases to differentials, benefits improvements of up to $4600 for part-time nurses in out-of-pocket premium costs, additional nursing roles, and enhanced ER security. The Hospital’s last offer also added back both retroactive pay and a ratification bonus as well as staffing changes on 23S, 24N and COVID staffing. These considerations reflect Saint Vincent’s recognition of a once in a generation pandemic to ensure fair compensation for nurses, and it is also a good faith effort to put as much as we could on the table to avoid any hostility between the hospital and the union during the crisis.

The MNA has not made any substantive counterproposals in recent sessions aside from denigrating the Hospital’s offer. Further, the MNA continues to insist on mandated staffing proposals which have not been supported in the Commonwealth and are not issues to be fought over at a single hospital during the pandemic crisis. Throughout the negotiations, we consistently indicated our willingness to continue talks, despite the MNA’s delays in responding and minimal movement on their proposal. To answer recent questions we have received about the pace and content of negotiations, below is a high level timeline that shows the duration of negotiations as well as the substantial movement made by the Hospital in comparison to the minimal movement made by the MNA in the weeks before the strike began.

2019 - 7 Sessions

Oct. 9 - Negotiations begin
Oct. 15
Nov. 8
Nov. 11
Nov. 25
Dec. 10
Dec. 19

2020 - 20 Sessions

Jan. 8
Jan. 21
Feb. 7
Feb. 19
March 2
March 11

Suspension due to pandemic

July 30
Aug. 3
Aug. 31
Sept. 9
Sept. 16
Sept. 25
Oct. 2
Oct. 15
Oct. 30
Nov. 4
Nov. 10
Nov. 19

Dec. 15

First session with federal mediator

Dec. 21

The Hospital presents a package proposal that includes a bonus for some 24-Flex nurses to offset the higher health insurance premiums paid by these nurses, in response to concern previously raised by MNA. The MNA makes no proposals at this session, but indicates the bonus was too infrequent and did not apply to enough nurses.

2021 - 6 Sessions

Jan. 5

The MNA presents a revised package proposal in which it withdrew three minor non-economic items and made minor modifications to its wage proposal. The MNA does not make any changes to its staffing proposal, which seeks staffing ratios that are substantially similar to the failed 2018 statewide ballot initiative.

In response to the MNA’s concern from the prior session that a yearly bonus was not frequent enough and did not impact enough nurses, the Hospital makes a revised health insurance bonus proposal in which it expands access to the bonus and the frequency of payment.

Jan. 21

The Hospital increases its wage offer for regular and per diem nurses. Additionally, in response to the MNA’s indication that it was not satisfied with the bonus for 24-Flex nurses, the Hospital proposes to reduce health insurance premiums for all 24-Flex nurses from a 65/35 percent share to 80/20, the same share paid by full-time employees (in some cases a $4,600 dollar savings). The Hospital also agrees to add between 4 and 5 critical care float nurses, and proposes increases to evening and night shift differentials as well as on-call pay.

The MNA responds by denigrating the proposal. It does not offer a counterproposal and informs the Hospital through the mediator that it would not continue to negotiate without additional movement from the Hospital on staffing. The MNA says it will provide a list of other hospitals with better staffing language than Saint Vincent in their MNA contracts. Such a document has never been produced.

Jan. 28

The MNA does not present a counter in response to the Hospital’s comprehensive package proposal. Instead, it proposes a mutual withdrawal of the floating proposals and states that it has no additional proposals.

Despite the fact that it would mean negotiating against its own prior proposal, the Hospital presents additional enhancements to its wage proposal, offering retro pay and a ratification bonus, and amending its Health and Safety proposal to include a Special Police Officer in the Emergency Department. The Hospital also withdraws a proposal that would slightly broaden its right to flex during periods of low census. The Hospital informs the MNA that the proposal was the Hospital’s last, best, and final offer.

Feb. 11

The MNA presents a revised staffing proposal that has insignificant changes and continues to demand staffing enhancements similar to its failed ballot initiative. The MNA makes no other modifications whatsoever to its wage or benefit proposals, and continues to propose a pension plan that it failed to explain at any negotiations session. The Hospital informs the MNA through the mediator that it was holding to its final offer and urged the MNA to accept it. The mediator later informs the Hospital that the MNA had finished for the day and had left the session.

Feb. 22-23

After the Hospital indicated through various community leaders and stakeholders that it was willing to return to the negotiating table to discuss further concessions to ease some of the disagreements on day-to-day staffing, the MNA serves the Hospital with a strike notice on Feb. 23 without any discussion.

Feb. 26-27

The mediator formally calls both parties back to the table. Saint Vincent Hospital told the mediator by mid-morning on Saturday February 27 that it would make itself available at all times offered by the mediator from Sunday February 28 through Tuesday March 2.The MNA responded that it was available at only one time in that range, Monday March 1 at 6pm.

March 1

In the hopes of averting a strike, the Hospital added the lump sum bonus and retroactive pay back to the proposal and added a proposal to change staffing on 23S and 24N to 4:1 in light of the increased acuity there in comparison to other med-surg floors. The Hospital also added COVID staffing that will limit the number of COVID patients a nurse can have to 2 in the PCU and 4 on any med-surg unit. Additionally, the Hospital proposed extending the contract through December 31, 2024, maintaining annual across-the-board increases (that are double those in the expired contract) for two additional years. The MNA did not provide a counter-proposal.

March 3

The MNA presented the Hospital with a proposal that made minor modifications to the wage proposal but once again made no movements to its staffing proposal. It also continues to have the pension plan on the table despite never having discussed any details of it with the Hospital.

March 8

Strike begins at 6 am.