Massachusetts nurses locked out at Baystate Franklin Medical Center

Workers Struggles: The Americas

The United States

Massachusetts nurses locked out at Baystate Franklin Medical Center

Hospital staff at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts were locked out of their jobs at 7 p.m. on June 25 after a breakdown in negotiations between the non-profit hospital chain and the nurse’s union. The union responded by organizing a 24-hour strike beginning at 6 a.m. on June 26. Among the nurses’ grievances are the refusal of hospital management to guarantee safe staffing levels, the steady erosion of health benefits, and a demand for a substantial pay raise.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurse Strike - June 26, 2017

Kay Herbert, a nurse who works alongside her daughter at the hospital, stated that deductibles for routine procedures had recently skyrocketed with the elimination of all health insurance plans offered to workers except for the plan owned by Baystate itself. She went on to described how during the lockout, staff were only partially replaced with scabs, further reducing the staff-patient ratio and increasing the likelihood of negative patient outcomes.

Asked what the strategy was for moving forward, she stated that they would be going back to work on Tuesday, and hoping that the union continues to negotiate. Katherine Chmura, Kay’s daughter, described being illegally instructed to work unscheduled shifts of up to 16 hours on short notice, a result of deliberate short-staffing by hospital management.

While conditions for nurses and other hospital staff at Franklin Medical center are steadily worsening, it is only one example of such exploitation taking place at hospitals throughout the region. Lisa, a nurse with decades of experience working throughout Western Massachusetts, stated that conditions at Franklin Medical Center are common across the different hospitals where she has worked. “There is constant pressure for nurses to stay, even when sleep deprived, and that can lead to failure to rescue a patient,” she said.

“Nursing is not task work, and can’t be done properly when decision making begins to fall off after 9 hours of work, but hospitals balance their budgets on the backs of nurses. I’ve almost never had a 30-minute break in 20 years. Our union has not been effective in fighting for these problems and I’m not sure why.”

Spectrum strike heads into fourth month as isolation by telecom unions continues

At strike by some 1,800 field and cable technicians at Spectrum cable company in New York City and northern New Jersey is heading into its fourth month with no resolution in sight. The workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, are being isolated by the telecommunication unions in a dispute centering on management attempts to shift pension and health care costs onto the shoulders of workers.

The IBEW and Communications Workers of America have kept the Spectrum workers separated from workers at AT&T, who had been working without a contract. Instead the IBEW has focused on lobbying New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is using the police to escort strikebreakers across picket lines.

Latin America

Uruguayan beverage workers strike over management “acts of disregard”

Workers for Montevideo Refrescos, which bottles and distributes Coca-Cola in Uruguay, began a strike against practices that its union called an “outrage” June 23. The Coca-Cola Workers Syndicate denounced the Human Resources department for setting up conversations with workers with the intent to convince them to take a different position from the union regarding a restructuring proposal.

While a company statement claims that “all the conversations were held in a voluntary, cordial manner on good terms,” the union accused the company of keeping it in the dark about the plan and acting in bad faith.

Uruguayan teachers plan one-day strike for salary raise, against privatization of education

Following the collapse of salary talks with the Uruguayan government June 21, the National Secondary Education Professors Federation (Fenapes) resolved to hold a nationwide 24-hour strike on June 29. Fenapes called the walkout in “absolute repudiation” of the government’s lack of serious negotiation.

The government had originally proposed a US$50 million increase that supposedly would comply with a contract signed in 2015 to bring a grade 1 teacher’s salary to US$25,000 a year. Fenapes countered that US$1.8 billion would be needed to meet that objective.

The government offered US$1.7 billion with US$50 million to cover inequities. However, it also demanded a “pre-accord” as a condition of signing. Fenapes considered the proposal inadequate since it did not attend to other unresolved issues in the 2015 contract

Paraguayan doctors announce strike against budget cuts

Doctors at the Clinical Hospital at Paraguay’s National University of Asuncion (UNA) announced June 23 that they would hold a general strike on June 27. The doctors cited a recent 5 percent cutback in the UNA’s budget, and demanded that the Treasury reinstate it and “charge it to the sojeros [soy bean agroexporters] and give it back to the house of study.”

Paraguay is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of soybeans. Critics say that soy production has had deleterious effects on rural populations, the economy and the environment. The government has resisted calls for tax increases on soy conglomerates.

Emergency and hospitalized patient care will continue during the stoppage, while surgeries and consultation appointments will be rescheduled.

Peruvian workplace inspectors strike for bigger budget, unpaid bonuses

Workers for Peru’s National Superintendency of Work Inspection (Sunafil) went on indefinite strike on June 22 to demand a sufficient budget to carry out their job. The workers’ union stated that under the current budget, 14 departments lack regional inspectorates.

Currently there are 18 inspector supervisors, 98 inspectors and 275 auxiliary inspectors in Sunafil, which the union says is inadequate to cover workplaces nationwide.

The union is also demanding the payment of bonuses from 2016.

Guyanese truckers protest deplorable roads, astronomical expenses

Cargo transport truck operators gathered in Georgetown, Guyana to highlight the problems they are facing. The truckers congregated at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition to voice their concerns.

The economy in the country’s interior has slowed, cutting the drivers’ incomes while their expenses stay the same or increase. Drivers have to pay taxes and fees, with tolls—in some cases just a few miles from each other—imposed both coming and going, in addition to fuel and maintenance costs. Many of the truckers are under pressure to pay loan installments for their vehicles while the amount of work diminishes.

Another complaint is the deteriorating condition of the roads in the interior. Trips that used to take a couple of days now take a week, one driver told Guyana Times reporters.

Trinidad: hospital workers stop work to protest lack of supplies, food

At least 50 employees at the Port of Spain General Hospital (POSGH) staged a protest June 22 against the lack of utensils and supplies in the kitchen area. Nurses joined kitchen staff carrying hand-lettered signs and banging pots and pans to bring attention to the lack of proper conditions in the kitchen.

Protesting workers also denounced the lack of food in the dispensary and malfunctions of appliances and the steam generator.

After meetings with a health ministry official, and the delivery of some equipment on June 23, the workers returned to the job.


Building Product workers strike in London

One hundred fifty workers at Gentek Building Products in London, Ontario are in their first week of a strike against the window manufacturer.

Members of Unifor Local 27, the workers are fighting for stricter contract language to put an end to a litany of management abuses on the shop floor.

Currently, management regularly invokes an “emergency” clause at the end of a worker’s shift to force them to work longer hours. In addition, the company is seeking to force employees to work a mandatory 12 hours of overtime a week. The strikers are also demanding that seniority principles be respected when layoffs occur during the slower winter season.

Federal government workers protest payroll fiasco

Federal employees in St. John, New Brunswick protested outside government offices last week against the ongoing failure of the government’s automated Phoenix payroll system. The system, installed last year, has consistently failed to properly process the biweekly pay of tens of thousands of government employees. The St. John protest was the last in a weeklong series of demonstrations by federal workers, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). The Phoenix system was purchased as part of a cost-cutting drive by the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper and installed under the current Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.

Seven hundred manual payroll processors were sacked and another 2,000 were reassigned to other duties. The new system consistently fails to process changes in an employee’s status or pay grade, does not process benefits accurately and, in thousands of cases, does not even process regular weekly pay. Protesters in New Brunswick pointed to cases in their own office where employees had not received a paycheck since January.