Minnesota nurses approve contract with Allina, strike to end

After nearly a month and a half off the job, almost 5,000 nurses will soon head back to work. Members of the nurses’ union approved their latest contract offer with Allina Health.

- The nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association voted Thursday to approve a tentative contract agreement with Allina Health. The MNA says the nurses will end their strike.

The two parties came to the tentative contract agreement on Tuesday after more than 17 hours of negotiating at the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul. Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith had asked both sides to meet at the residence to resolve their ongoing dispute.

Both parties struggled to compromise on issues like health insurance, safety and hospital staffing levels.

“The nurses left their jobs and their health benefits so they could win workplace safety guarantees such as better training and an around-the-clock security guard in the emergency department,” MNA executive director Rose Roach said at a press conference Thursday. “They won that for both themselves and their patients.”

Members of the MNA negotiating team said the nurses are looking forward to getting back to their patients.

“I hope Allina realizes this should have never happened,” said Abbott Northwestern Hospital Registered Nurse and Negotiating Team Member Angela Becchetti said. “If Allina's negotiating team had listened to nurses last winter and worked with us on staffing and workplace safety, and made a case on changing insurance, nurses would have helped them find a solution that didn't require spending millions of dollars on replacement nurses."

For Allina, the company has some relationships to heal with their staff and their patients.

A patient medication error at Abbott Northwestern during the strike was so serious the hospital was put on notice that it risked losing its Medicare contract.

Allina insisted the concerns have been addressed and that the mistake didn’t result in any “permanent harm,” according to the following statement:

"This is related to a medication error that occurred at Abbott Northwestern in September. The patient was not permanently harmed. As is standard procedure, we submitted a corrective action plan to CMS. We're confident this plan addresses any issues of concern. We expect a return survey will occur very soon, well before the October 30 deadline, after which we expect this matter will be resolved."

Roach said this is not the last time Allina Health will hear from the nurses.

“A contract isn’t a suture, it’s a band aid,” Roach said. “The wounds inflicted on the nurses since February will not heal overnight. The nurses have continually felt disrespected and devalued.”

The MNA says the striking nurses from Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, Phillips Eye Institute, United, and Unity hospitals will be back to work by 7 a.m. on Sunday. The nurses have been on strike since Labor Day.

Allina Health statement

Tonight, the Minnesota Nurses Association announced that Allina Health nurses have voted to ratify the agreement reached with the union earlier this week. We appreciate the nurses’ ratification of the agreement. On Sunday morning, October 16, at the 7 a.m. shift change, Allina Health nurses will return to the bedside, as we continue to provide high-quality care to our patients and communities.

Minnesota Nurses Association statement

October 13, 2016 – A majority of the striking nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association have voted in favor of the tentative agreement with Allina Health reached on October 11.

Nurses from Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, Phillips Eye Institute, United, and Unity hospitals voted to ratify the contract today.

"This contract represents compromise and strength by the nurses," said MNA Executive Director Rose Roach. "While it's nowhere near what nurses deserve, they can hold their heads high. They can rest easy knowing they won a "no diminishment" clause, so even though they are moving to the corporate health insurance plans, they have assurance that the value of their benefits won't be reduced in any future cost-cutting scheme."

Nurses will pull the strike notice and return to their jobs under terms of the return-to-work agreement reached on Tuesday morning.

"The nurses sacrificed their livelihoods and their families' security to win improvements to patient care through a staffing procedure that will examine and review the impact of charge nurses having patient assignments," said MNA President and North Memorial Medical Center Registered Nurse Mary Turner. "The issue of safe staffing is far greater than one job classification, which is why nurses focused from day one on negotiating staffing ratios. Nurses left their jobs and health benefits so they could win workplace safety guarantees, such as better training and a round-the-clock security guard in the emergency department - for themselves and their patients."

"Nurses have spoken," said Abbott Northwestern Hospital Registered Nurse and Negotiating Team Member Angela Becchetti. "We are now looking forward to getting back to our patients. I hope Allina realizes this should have never happened. If Allina's negotiating team had listened to nurses last winter and worked with us on staffing and workplace safety, and made a case on changing insurance, nurses would have helped them find a solution that didn't require spending millions of dollars on replacement nurses."

"To Allina we say: as a member-run union, the nurses make the decisions," said Roach. "Rest assured, this isn't the last time you will hear nurses speak out. The wounds inflicted on the nurses since February will not heal overnight. Nurses have continually felt disrespected and devalued. Nurses are determined to keep speaking up for their patients and their profession as they return to the bedside. I hope Allina will listen and work to re-establish trust with the nurses and ensure maximum patient safety and care." 

Statement from Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Smith

“Minnesota's nurses are on the front lines of health care, where they work tirelessly and professionally to take care of all of us. We are grateful that the members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have ratified this contract and will return to work soon, and we are grateful this long and painful strike has ended. We again thank the leaders and negotiating teams representing the Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Health for working so hard to resolve this very challenging dispute.”


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