Allina nurses head back to picket lines after rejecting contract offer

Striking Allina Health nurses voted Monday to reject a contract offer from their Minneapolis-based employer, thereby extending their open-ended walkout, reports the Star Tribune.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, had not advised the workers to reject Allina's latest offer, according to the article. However, many nurses said they felt the offer was too much like the contract they rejected in August, and to the terms their union negotiators rejected during last-ditch negotiations in September to avert a strike, the report states.

MNA executive director Rose Roach said in the report that the nurses' vote sent a clear message to go back to the bargaining table. "Each of them voted with their conscience, and with their patients and their families in mind," she said.

More than 4,000 nurses began their latest walkout on Labor Day following a week-long strike in June. With the new voting results, strikes over health benefits, staffing and safety concerns will continue at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

This means the open-ended walkout could become the longest nursing strike in Minnesota history, surpassing a state record 1984 strike that lasted 38 days.

Allina spokesman David Kanihan provided a written statement to the Star Tribune, saying hospital executives are willing to return to negotiations as soon as possible, but disappointed at the nurses' decision to reject the health system's contract offer.

"This proposal was eminently fair and went very far in addressing the issues the union raised during negotiations," the statement said. "We are disappointed that our nurses will remain on strike instead of returning to the bedside to care for patients."

A key sticking point in the dispute between Allina and its 4,800 nurses has been the nurses' health insurance.

Allina wanted to eliminate the nurses' union-backed health plans, which include high premiums but low or no deductibles, and move the nurses to its corporate plans, reports the Star Tribune. Allina has estimated that eliminating the nurses' union-backed health plans would save the health system $10 million per year.

The MNA ultimately agreed last month to move all nurses by 2020 to Allina's three corporate health plans, but they asked for some oversight of the corporate plans to ensure their cost and quality, reports the Star Tribune.

According to the publication, the latest Allina offer did not grant what the union wanted, but it did agree to leave two of the union health plans untouched through 2019. The report states that the offer also guaranteed that the actuarial value of Allina's most popular health plan won't change by more than 7 percent in any three-year contract period.

Striking nurses lost their health insurance as of Oct. 1, and it was unclear how heavily that would influence the voting, according to the report. Allina also has reported that 595 nurses have crossed the picket line and returned to work, though the union has questioned that number.

The Star Tribune reports that the MNA filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board that Allina had engaged in "unfair" negotiating practices, such as declining to provide requested financial information. These claims provide striking nurses with federal protection against being permanently replaced. Allina hired more than 1,000 temporary nurses to step in during the walkout.

The two strikes have easily cost Allina more than $40 million so far, according to the Star Tribune.


More articles on human capital and risk:

New labor contract for Hazel Hawkins Memorial nurses includes raise
Striking nurses revamp voting method for Monday’s decision on Allina’s latest offer
Hahnemann University Hospital nurses picket over staffing levels


Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars