Allina nurses are on strike, and this matter might be resolved Monday. On September 5, over 4,000 nurses, who work in the Allina-operated hospitals and clinics, went on strike.
Allina Health is a not-for-profit healthcare system, which has over 100 establishments in Minneapolis, Minnesota. About 1,500 temporary nurses from all across the country have been hired at the five hospitals – Abbott Northwestern, the Phillips Eye Institute, United, Unity, and Mercy – affected during the strike.
All of the temporary nurses are licensed by the Minnesota Board of Nursing, but they find themselves in unfamiliar hospitals, charting systems, and procedures. According to Allina, they only hired 1,500 nurses to cover the workload of 4,000 staff nurses because only 8 percent of staff nurses work 40 hours a week. The replacement nurses handle 12-hour shifts.
The nurses went on strike because their union – the Minnesota Nurses Association – and Allina were unable to agree on a new three-year contract. After three days of discussion between Allina Health and the union, they have decided to vote on the latest contract on Monday.
The union is still not satisfied with certain proposals in the following categories – health insurance and workplace safety. The nurses association will not make any recommendations whether members should support the proposal. A simple majority will decide the vote.
If the members agree to the new contract, the strike will be over, and they will return to work. If they do not accept it, the strike will go on. Angela Becchetti, of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said:
“They kept giving us more problems sitting there the past three days so I’m confident these nurses will take the best-informed decision.”
“There were some gains, I can say that, but there were a lot of take backs in this. That’s not negotiating we were almost bargaining against ourselves at the end.”
Here is the sticking point in the three-year contract proposal:
We have agreed with the union on ALL current aspects of this issue, including annual hours of workplace safety training, guaranteeing the training is face-to-face and that one of the teachers is an RN with clinical expertise, and adding 24/7 security staffing to the Emergency Departments.
The previous agreements included extending the union’s voice in workplace safety issues:
Participation: The union would be guaranteed the right to nominate registered nurses to participate on the committees that review and address workplace violence training and incidents. Currently, the union has no ability to select participants. Allina Health committed that nurses who participate on the committee will be paid for their time.
Scope: We committed that each site’s committee would review data regarding workplace safety incidents and make recommendations for educational needs, training content and other measures to improve workplace safety. If a pattern or trend arises, the committee may make recommendations for additional education or changes to policies.
Schedule: While the committees meet regularly based on both the size of the site and the issues needing to be discussed, our proposal guarantees that the sites will meet no less than six times a year.
Allina officials say about 600 of the nurses are no longer taking part in the strike and have returned to work. Allina said in a statement:
“It’s disappointing that on the very day we are set to resume negotiations and work toward a settlement that will bring our nurses back to the bedside, the union continues to focus on PR tactics.
That being said, Allina Health looks forward to resuming negotiations on today. Striking Allina Health nurses have already lost three weeks of wages, and are in danger of having to pay COBRA rates for their health insurance if they don’t return to work by October 1.
We greatly appreciate the 572 Allina Health nurses who have so far made the decision to cross the picket line and continue caring for patients. They, along with 1,500 temporary nurses and thousands of other Allina Health physicians and employees, have continued to deliver outstanding care throughout the strike. But now it’s time to bring all our incredibly talented nurses back to the bedside.
We can do so if the union is willing to work with us to address the same issues that every other major Minnesota employer is facing – the imperative to phase out Cadillac-style insurance plans that are not financially sustainable.
In our last negotiating session, Allina Health agreed to all of the union’s latest workplace safety proposals, including 24/7 security in the Emergency Departments, and the union withdrew all but one of its remaining staffing proposals. Both sides also agreed to a two percent annual wage increase, in addition to step increases already built into the contracts.
We sincerely hope that today the union will work collaboratively with us to reach agreement on a fair transition for our nurses to the Gold plus-rated health insurance plans that are offered to all of our other employees. These plans are already used by 17 percent of the nurses union’s own members who work for Allina Health, and were accepted by union negotiators at three Allina Health hospitals. The most popular of these plans features a low $300 individual/$900 family deductible, and nurses are eligible for full coverage after only 16 hours of work each week.
We believe we can reach an agreement if both sides come to the table with a spirit of collaboration, and we are looking forward to a productive session.”
Local experts say that things are moving in the right direction.