It’s been more than a month since the last negotiation session, but now representatives of Berkshire Medical Center and its registered nurses are return to the bargaining table this week. The contract talks are now in their 20th month.

The Berkshire Eagle reports that BMC wants answers as to whether the nurses' bargaining committee will accept the proposal that was made to them at the end of the last time the two sides got together, and will they then bring it to members for a vote. If that doesn’t happen, the hospital says, the offer goes away. That’s what the hospital put in a letter to employees at the hospital on Friday.

That raises the possibility of a second strike. After the sides last met over two days in February, the Massachusetts Nurses Association withdrew plans for a second strike. That one-day job action would have taken place on February 27th. The strike would have been followed by a four-day lockout that would have cost the hospital at least $3 million.


Berkshire Judge’s Case Being Heard Tuesday

A Pittsfield drug court judge will get to plead his case Tuesday. The fate of Judge Thomas Estes will be in the hands of the state’s highest court. Estes admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker, including having sexual encounters at the courthouse in Pittsfield.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is asking that Estes be suspended indefinitely without pay in order to give lawmakers time to decide whether to remove him from the bench for his relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where Estes presided. Cagle has accused Estes of pressuring her into sex, including performing oral sex on him in his chambers and in her own home.

Judge Estes denies ever harassing Cagle or pushing her into doing anything that she didn't want to do. He's is urging the court for a four-month suspension.


BRTA May Get Help From Budget Amendment

As the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority faces a budget shortfall, local legislators are stepping up and are pushing for more funding. State Reps. Smitty Pignatelli and John Barrett III have filed an amendment to the House of Representatives budget that would increase funding for regional transportation authorities to the tune 10 percent.

The Berkshire Eagle reports the amendment would see state funding for transit authorities go up from $80.4 million to $88.81 million. That’s one-percent of the penny of the sales tax revenue that is set aside for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The amendment proposal comes as the BRTA recently announced various reductions in service because of a budget gap of more than $378,000.