'Historic' pay raises avert planned nurses strike in Minnesota

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have reached tentative three-year contracts with hospital executives, averting a planned strike by 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

Nurses have been bargaining for new agreements the last nine months and have been working without contracts since summer, according to a Dec. 6 union news release. Approximately 15,000 union members planned to begin a strike Dec. 11 at 15 Twin Cities and Twin Ports facilities run by Children's Minnesota, North Memorial, Allina Health, M Health Fairview, HealthPartners, Essentia Health and St. Luke's. However, the strike has been called off as nurses prepare to vote on the tentative deals, the union said. Nurses at St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors, Minn., were also slated to join the strike by nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports. A statement shared with Becker's said Lake View is looking forward to resuming negotiations and remains hopeful a strike will be avoided there as well.

Mary Turner, RN, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, called the tentative agreements for Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses "a historic win for nurses and patients at the bedside."

"For years, hospital executives have been pushing nurses out of the profession by understaffing our units and undervaluing our nurses," she said in the union news release. The tentative deals "will help to keep nurses at the bedside, where we will keep fighting to oppose the corporate healthcare policies which threaten our hospital systems and the care our patients deserve."

If approved by nurses, the new contracts would include language to address staffing. The union said staffing changes vary by each contract, including language to: "prevent reductions in staffing levels without consensus between nurses and management; help protect nurses from discipline when they raise concerns about unsafe assignments; and to trigger reviews of staffing levels by nurses and management in response to key measures of patient and nurse well-being and outcomes."

The union also said the tentative agreements include "historic" pay raises. Nurses in the Twin Cities would see raises of 18 percent over three years, while nurses in the Twin Ports would see raises of 17 percent during that period, with pay retroactive to expiration of the prior contract.

Additionally, tentative agreements include increased pay for preceptors and for charge nurses, and several of the tentative agreements include additional gains including workplace safety protections, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association.

St. Luke's in Duluth, Minn., praised the tentative agreement for nurses there.

"MNA has withdrawn its strike notice and will bring the contract to nurses for ratification in the near future," St. Luke's said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We want to thank all who have worked so diligently at the table to reach a fair and equitable contract."

Allina Health issued the following statement: "We are pleased to announce that Allina Health and Minnesota Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement. … The settlement, which the union is recommending, is now subject to ratification by union membership. MNA has rescinded all strike notices at Abbott Northwestern, United (St. Paul campus) and Mercy (both campuses) hospitals.

"Allina Health is pleased with the settlement, which reflects the priorities of both parties and is fair and equitable to our employees, patients and communities. We are thankful to be able to return our full attention to caring for the community at this time of increased illness and demand."

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