Amita nurses could strike as early as July 4

Nurses who work at Amita Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., have issued a 10-day strike notice and could walk off their jobs as early as July 4, according to the union that represents them.

On May 29, the nurses authorized their bargaining team to call a strike.

The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents more than 720 Saint Joseph Medical Center nurses, said in a news release that both sides have been negotiating a new contract since early spring. The current contract expired May 9, and a federal mediator has supervised contract talks.

A key issue during negotiations has been pay and benefits.

On June 22, negotiators with the hospital provided a final contract offer to union representatives, which addressed issues such as sick leave, tuition reimbursement and anniversary paid time off, Amita Health said in a news release.

The health system said it has provided pay continuance and temporary premium pay for front-line workers most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the organization has still had to make hard decisions.

"Our negotiators have been clear that wage proposals presented during previous negotiations are no longer viable … due to the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Amita Health said. "Amita Health made the difficult decision to forgo merit increases for all our valued associates for fiscal year 2021 as we deal with the economic strain from the pandemic. This decision was not reached lightly, but we believe it is a more just alternative to the furloughs and layoffs many healthcare providers have seen as a result of the pandemic."

But the union takes issue with Amita Health's final offer. Pat Meade, RN, a nurse at Saint Joseph Medical Center who is a leader in the contract talks, said one issue the union has is that Amita Health proposed an elimination of the Illinois Nurses Association's wage scale and withdrew its previously proposed wage increases.

She said the union also wants to retain the extended illness bank benefit — allowing nurses to be paid for any illness or injury more than four days — for future nurses as well as current bargaining unit nurses.

Amita Health expressed disappointment that the health system's final offer was not accepted — and that nurses plan to strike — but said it is "prepared to provide uninterrupted, high quality care and service throughout the possible strike."

Both sides are slated to return to the bargaining table on June 30 and July 8.

 

More articles on human resources:
Henry Mayo nurses protest over layoffs, PPE
Hackensack Meridian, 300 nurses reach new labor deal
NLRB issues complaint against New Jersey hospital accused of unfair actions against nurses

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