Arbitration not the answer to two-year contract dispute

A Massachusetts hospital has been engaged in a two-year dispute with the nurses’ union over proposed changes to overtime pay. In a union membership meeting on the issue, all but one of the attendees voted to use arbitration to resolve the contract dispute. However, the hospital president does not feel that it is in anyone’s best interest to have an outsider make the decision.

The debate began when the hospital declared its desire to change the way that overtime is paid. Rather than paying overtime for more than eight hours in a given day, the hospital wants to switch to paying overtime for hours in excess of 40 per week. The weekly overtime plan is well within compliance of labor laws, but the nurses feel that their position is reasonable.

One of the nurses at the hospital stated that arbitration is a tried and true process. It is not uncommon for other public service organizations, such as firefighters and police, to lean on arbitration to resolve disputes. However, the hospital president stated that he was disappointed in the union’s desire to arbitrate. An arbitrator may not understand the situation well enough to decide this type of issue.

While everyone involved would like to resolve the dispute, it is understandable why the hospital may prefer to reach an agreement with the nurses’ union rather than engage in arbitration. Employers facing contract negotiations may want to seek the counsel of an attorney. Attorneys may be able to provide advice on the legal issues affecting the employment relationship. They may also be able to help protect businesses from potential liabilities arising from these types of contract negotiations.

Source: The Recorder, “Nurses want to use arbitration to settle contract dispute; hospital not on board”, Chris Shores, September 04, 2013