After more than a month apart, representatives of Berkshire Medical Center and its registered nurses return to bargaining next week, with contract talks now in their 20th month.

The hospital says it wants an answer: Will the nurses' bargaining committee accept the proposal made at the end of their last talks? And will they then bring it to members for a vote?

If not, that offer goes away, the hospital told employees in a letter Friday, raising the possibility of a second strike.

The parties last met at a marathon session Feb. 22 and 23 that led the Massachusetts Nurses Association to withdraw plans for a second strike. That one-day job action was to take place Feb. 27, followed by a four-day lockout that would have cost the hospital at least $3 million.

Bargaining is set for Wednesday. It was the only scheduled date as of Friday.

As the session nears, both the hospital and the union signal that disagreement could lead to another strike.

Nurses, having failed in talks to secure contract language related to minimum staffing

They say they want to prevent any worsening of what nurses see as a workload that can at times be overwhelming, affecting patient care, in their view.

They have had asked the hospital to commit to at least maintain current staffing.worsening of what nurses see as a workload that can at times be overwhelming, affecting patient care, in their view.