Allina Health nurses authorize second strike

Nurses at five Allina Health hospitals voted Thursday to call for a new strike in a disagreement with the Minneapolis-based health system over health benefits, staffing and workplace safety, according to a Star Tribune report.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, the union representing roughly 4,800 Allina nurses, declined to provide specific voting results to the Star Tribune, but did indicate the required two-thirds majority was reached against Allina's most recent contract offer to proceed with strike planning.

Nurses at three voting locations said while they will need to look for other employment and save money to counter the loss of pay from Allina during a strike, they believe calling the strike was necessary to defend their benefits and pressure Allina after an initial seven-day strike in June didn't result in a deal, according to the report.

A key sticking point in negotiations has been the cost and design of the nurses' union-backed health insurance. Allina wanted to eliminate the nurses' four union-backed health plans, which include high premiums but low or no deductibles, and move the nurses to its corporate plans, according to the report. The union wanted to protect those nurse-only plans. Allina has estimated that eliminating the nurses' four union-backed health plans would save the health system $10 million per year.

Penny Wheeler, MD, CEO of Allina, told the Star Tribune Wednesday that Allina compromised and offered to discontinue only two of the union plans, though nurses would have to take on most of the cost increases.

"We know that our nurses would be heartbroken to leave the side of their patients," she told the publication. "And for what reason? … It's hard to believe they would strike over this when actually they have another choice."

Union officials said they will plan for a strike, but expect that federal mediators or Allina might pursue another round of talks before a strike takes place, according to the report. Leaders of the Minnesota Nurses Association would still have to issue a required 10-day notice before a strike could occur.

The strike would affect five Minnesota facilities — Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Unity Hospital in Fridley, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis.

And it could be costly. Allina said it incurred $20.4 million of expenses related to the strike in June.


More articles on human capital and risk:

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital nurses to strike
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