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Bozeman Deaconess nurses to picket about union contract

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Feb 18 2013 06:29:31 PM MST
Updated On: Feb 18 2013 10:55:58 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Bozeman Deaconess hospital nurses got together Monday afternoon to create signs and send a message.

"It's going to say, 'nurses united will never be divided'" RN Barbara Johnson said, of the words she was writing on a poster.

Nurses like Johnson said they'll stand together and picket the so-far unsuccessful contract negotiations with Bozeman Deaconess- and make their requests simple, and clear.

This comes weeks after the Montana Nurses Association filed three charges of unfair labor practices against the hospital.

"One of the issues that we really want to talk about is respect in the workplace" Johnson said. "We want some wording in our contract that would cover bullying and any intimidation."

She said the hospital's work environment can be hostile and the wage scale, unequal.

"There are some issues within the wage scale" she said.

The group said they want those issues addressed in a new union contract for 240 registered nurses. The last one expired in December.

"We've had about 22/23 proposals that are non-monetary, and then we've had several monetary proposals" said Vickie Groeneweg, BDH's Chief Nursing Officer.

She argues they've been bargaining in good faith, trying to fairly address all concerns.

So far, they haven't found a solution. But Groeneweg said they respect the nurses and their right to collectively bargain.

"Our nurses give excellent care, and we've had a long-standing good relationship with them" she said. "We anticipate that as we work out the process and we go through the bargaining process, that we'll be able to come to a resolution that is beneficial for both parties."

Both sides said they're confident they can reach a final agreement.

"There's a little ray of hope that we're going to get things wrapped up here this week" Johnson said.

The "informational picket" will take place in front of the hospital Tuesday. The nurses stress they are not going on strike, and those picketing will take the day off so hospital services aren't disrupted.

Johnson said nurse unions from other states will also be there for support, in addition to union fire fighters and teachers from around Montana.

Bargaining sessions for a new contract are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

As far as the unfair labor practice allegations- a representative from the National Labor Relations Board was on site to investigate.