Morton Hospital nurses mull a strike

By Megan Woolhouse
Globe Staff / March 23, 2010

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Nurses at Morton Hospital and Medical Center in Taunton say they are contemplating a strike after months of meetings and stalled contract negotiations with hospital management.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents more than 400 nurses, physical therapists, and other staff at Morton, wants to end mandatory overtime shifts that require some employees to work more than 12 hours. Hospital management said overtime is generally based on patient need and overtime staffing represented 0.5 percent of total patient care hours in the last fiscal year. The union is also fighting an effort to switch nurses’ traditional pension plans to contribution-based funds, primarily 401(k) plans.

David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the nurses group, said the hospital has threatened to change the plans by March 31, despite the ongoing contract talks.

In a statement, hospital management said the union has stalled discussions of pension changes and failed to “engage in any meaningful discussion regarding the hospital’s updating of its pension plan.’’

The proposed retirement plan changes would save the hospital nearly $12 million over six years, the statement said. “While this new plan will help reduce the projected budget shortfall in the years ahead, the hospital will still face significant financial challenges,’’ officials wrote.

The union contract expired March 8.