Illinois nurses vote down Ascension's 'final offer'

Nurses at Ascension Saint Joseph-Joliet (Ill.), part of St. Louis-based Ascension, have voted down the latest contract proposal from hospital management.

Nearly 80% of Illinois Nurses Association-represented nurses voted this month to reject what Ascension called its "last, best and final" offer, according to a Dec. 19 union news release shared with Becker's.

The union, which represents more than 500 nurses at the facility, and hospital have been in negotiations since May. The union said the key issues on the bargaining table are wages and what it described as "the ever-expanding demands on staff nurses." Since the last contract expired over the summer, nurses have gone on strike twice, once in August and once in November.

The union said nurses rejected the latest contract proposal because of issues such as "proposed wages that are below market and mandates that nurses can be pressed into working on units outside of their specialty."

In the news release, the union said it has requested Ascension return to the bargaining table to hear their counter proposal and "hopefully reach a compromise that puts the hospital back on the right track."

An Ascension spokesperson shared the following statement with Becker's: "It is unfortunate our fair and reasonable contract proposal was not ratified by our represented registered nurses. While we remain willing to meet with [the] Illinois Nurses Association to discuss the benefits and details of our proposal, as we have communicated to INA, our nurses and publicly, the contract proposal that was voted on represents our best and final offer for the RN successor contract.

"Ratifying this contract would have allowed us to increase RN wage rates up to 19 percent — improving our ability to recruit and retain nurses from across the region, enhance staffing, and ultimately, provide our nurses with the recognition they deserve. We must now review other options for addressing our recruitment and retention needs as we continue to provide quality care to our community."

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