8 latest developments on Allina Health's dispute with nurses

Allina Health workers began their second strike of the summer on Labor Day, marking the latest development in a dispute between the Minneapolis-based system and its roughly 4,800 nurses, according to the Star Tribune.

Here are eight things to know about the strike and the dispute.

1. The 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.

2. The strike began like the initial nurse strike in June — with a bagpiper serenading the pickets at 7 a.m. Monday at Abbott Northwestern, according to the article.

3. However, the time frame for the two strikes is different. The first strike lasted seven days whereas the second strike is open-ended, meaning it will last until a deal is reached, according to the article.

4. Prior to the strike, the two sides had been close to reaching a deal. Allina and the Minnesota Nurses Association spent 22 hours negotiating Friday and early Saturday morning, according to the article. In fact, a spokesman for the union acknowledged to the Star Tribune he had started preparing a news release announcing an agreement had been reached. But the two sides were not able to finalize an agreement due to lingering questions about who pays for the nurses' health insurance, and who controls their health plans, the article states.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. No further talks between Allina and the nurses are scheduled.

8. In the meantime, Allina has financially committed to a pool of 1,500 replacement nurses for as long as two weeks, according to the article. And given the uncertainty of the duration of the latest strike, some Allina nurses have also already applied for temporary nursing jobs elsewhere to make ends meet, the Star Tribune reports.

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