Allina, nurses blame each other for latest failure in contract talks

Contract talks broke down Tuesday between Minneapolis-based Allina Health and the union representing roughly 4,800 of its nurses, according to a Star Tribune report.

Negotiators for the Minnesota Nurses Association said Allina demanded nurses give up their union-backed health plans and switch to the company's plans, according to the article. Allina officials, the article states, said they waited all day for a counterproposal by the union, which had called Tuesday's negotiating session. Both sides talked with federal mediators, but didn't meet face to face, according to the Star Tribune. And both sides blamed the other for the latest failure in talks, the article notes.

The talks marked the most recent efforts by the two sides to avoid another nurse strike.

On Thursday, Allina Health nurses at 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 — rejected the latest contract offer from Allina, voting against it with the required two-thirds majority to authorize a strike. Nurses must give Allina a 10-day notice before a strike can take place.

If a nurse strike does occur, it would be the second since an initial seven-day strike in June. That strike, which didn't result in a deal, cost Allina $20.4 million.

A key sticking point in negotiations has been the cost and design of the nurses' union-backed health insurance. 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.

 

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