Update: More than 413 Allina nurses agree to work as open-ended strike continues

While striking nurses at Allina Health called for a meeting with the Minneapolis-based health system's board to discuss their concerns, more than 413 nurses have crossed the picket line and agreed to work amidst prolonged negotiations, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.

The workers, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, began their second strike of the summer on Labor Day, marking the latest development in a dispute between Allina and its roughly 4,800 nurses. The open-ended strike over health benefits, staffing and safety issues affects five Minnesota hospitals — Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

If union representatives speak at the board's next meeting, they hope board members would exert pressure on Allina's executive and negotiating teams to "soften their stance," union spokesman Rick Fuentes said, according to a Pioneer Press report.

Allina spokesman David Kanihan said in the report that "targeting board members" was "about disruption rather than negotiation" and goes against the goal of reaching an agreement.

"We would like to find a way to come to an agreement in the near future. While we rejected the last offer from the union, we all acknowledge that progress was made during that long negotiations session," he said. "We should be able to reach a deal soon."

As of Thursday, more than 413 nurses had crossed the picket line and signed up to work, Allina said, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Allina said Thursday that 20 percent of its union nurses at Unity Hospital have agreed to work, and 13 percent of nurses at Mercy Hospital have signed up for shifts, according to the report.

The cost and design of the nurses' union-backed health insurance has been a key sticking point in negotiations. 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, reports the Star Tribune. 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.

In their most recent offer, union negotiators agreed to phase out the union plans if they had authority over the cost and quality of the corporate plans, according to the Star Tribune. The union also wanted contract bonuses of at least $1,000 to compensate for losing their union health plans, the report states. Allina leaders contended the union was asking for too much control and offered only $500 in contract bonuses, according to the article.

No further talks between Allina and the nurses are scheduled.

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