Allina Health, union nurses come to tentative contract agreement

- Gov. Mark Dayton has brokered a tentative contract agreement between Allina Health and the Minnesota Nurses Union that would end the ongoing nurses’ strike. The two parties left the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul, Minnesota at 4:00 a.m. Tuesday morning after negotiating for more than 17 hours.

After three rejected contract offers, Dayton asked negotiators from Allina and the MNA to meet at the Governor’s Residence on Monday to reach an agreement. It was the first time in a while both sides have been in the same room as each other, as recent negotiations had been done through a federal mediator who has been meeting separately with both parties.

The parties were asked to remain at the residence until their ongoing dispute over health insurance, safety and hospital staffing levels was resolved.

“The two sides have successfully negotiated a tentative agreement. We thank the Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Health for working to reach this tentative agreement, which will allow them to resume the quality health care that Minnesotans need and deserve," Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Hundreds of nurses from five Allina hospitals and clinics in the metro area have been on strike since Labor Day. Last week, nurses voted to reject the latest contract offer from Allina Health and continue their strike.  Both parties have failed to compromise on issues like changes in nurse staffing and the transition from the nurses’ health care plans to the main plans offered to the rest of Allina’s employees.

The Minnesota Nurses Association will take a final vote on the new contract on Thursday.

Allina Health statement

President and CEO of Allina Health Penny Wheeler released a statement following the conclusion of the negotiations: 

I’m so pleased to announce that Allina Health and the Minnesota Nurses Association have reached a tentative agreement on all outstanding contract issues. Our nurses will vote on this tentative agreement on Thursday, with a unanimous endorsement by union leadership.

In a 16-hour negotiation session at the Governor’s residence in St. Paul that began yesterday, the Allina Health and MNA negotiation teams reached alignment on a number of important issues, including:

•        The nurse-only insurance plans will phase out completely by the end of 2018. In order to mitigate the impact to our nurses of transitioning away from these plans, we agreed to provide nurses with additional HRA/HSA contributions in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
•        Allina Health agreed that it would make no changes that would diminish the value of the Allina First plan for all employees through the end of 2021.
•        The creation of a Charge Nurse Assignment Task Force, which will evaluate the circumstances under which charge nurses take patient assignments and help to ensure these resources are best utilized for the benefit of our patients.
These agreements were in addition to other items that had been settled in previous sessions, including 24/7 security officer staffing in the ED, as well as providing nurses a greater voice on our workplace violence and prevention committees. In addition, nurses will receive a 2 percent wage increase each year of the three-year contract. More details about the provisions of the agreement will be available online soon.

Our goal all along has been to reach an agreement that is fair to our nurses and sustainable for our organization. I’m proud to say that with this agreement, we have achieved that goal. I want to thank Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith for their assistance in finalizing this agreement, as well as the MNA negotiating team, who worked with us into the night to reach this important milestone.

The day when our nurses will come back to the bedside now feels close at hand. With unanimous support from the union bargaining committee, I have high hopes that our nurses will vote to accept this agreement so that we can begin the return to work process as soon as possible.

I want to thank the physicians and staff from across Allina Health who have done incredible work to ensure our patients and communities received high-quality care throughout the strike. I couldn’t be more proud of the dedication, perseverance and commitment to our values that every one of you has demonstrated during these five long weeks. I’d also like to thank the temporary nurses who so ably served our patients and made it possible for Allina Health to continually fulfill our commitment to care.

Now begins the process of healing. This has been an emotional time for all of us, and I know that strong feelings won’t vanish overnight. But I also know that every one of us – nurses and non-nurses alike -- share a deep and abiding commitment to providing exceptional care to the communities we serve. That common thread will be what will pull us back together. And together we will renew our commitment to making Allina Health the best, most forward-looking, and most compassionate health care organization in our region.

Minnesota Nurses Association statement

After a 17 hour negotiating session beginning at 11:00am on Monday, October 10, 2016, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and Allina Health announced that they have reached a tentative agreement on all outstanding contract issues. The two groups came together with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to negotiate at the Governor’s Residence, at the request of Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith.

The following is a statement from Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith:

“The two sides have successfully negotiated a tentative agreement. We thank the Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Health for working to reach this tentative agreement, which will allow them to resume the quality health care that Minnesotans need and deserve.”

This tentative agreement will now be presented with unanimous endorsement to members of the Minnesota Nurses Association. Details of the tentative agreement will be available to MNA members, Allina Health employees, and the public beginning today, Tuesday, October 11, 2016. MNA will post details of the tentative agreement on their website and social media channels. Allina Health will simultaneously distribute details to their employees. Minnesota Nurses Association members are expected to vote on Thursday, October 13, 2016.

"The agreement is the result of an enormous amount of work," said Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director.  "The nurses have shown remarkable strength and courage to earn improvements in workplace safety, nurse staffing policies, and multi-year contributions to accounts that will ease their transition from their contract health insurance plans to Allina core plans.  Nurses have cooperated with easing out of these plans and deserve to be protected through any future benefit reductions by Allina Health, which the company has provided."

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