700+ nurses strike over new labor contract at Illinois hospital

As negotiations over a new labor contract stalled, more than 700 nurses walked off the job July 4 at Amita Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet (Ill.), according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, the union nurses claim hospital executives use illegal bargaining tactics, such as intimidation and threats of termination. The union will strike for at least five days, which is the time period temporary nurses from an outside agency have been contracted to fill the gap.

Negotiations stalled in February, and the nurses have worked without a contract since May 9. 

The union claims nurses must "care for more patients than is safe," and the negotiations have focused on hospital staffing levels.

The hospital system is "disappointed" in the decision to strike, but Saint Joseph is "prepared to provide uninterrupted, high-quality care and service throughout the possible strike," Amita spokesperson Timothy Nelson told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mr. Nelson said negotiators made a final offer July 3 that included extended sick benefits, wage increases in the second and third years of the contract, tuition reimbursement and anniversary paid time off. The hospital isn't offering nurses "merit increases" this fiscal year in an effort to avoid furloughs and layoffs, Mr. Nelson said.

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