MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - The stalemate continues in the dispute between Allina Health and thousands of striking nurses. The nurses rejected the latest contract offer that would have ended the strike, which began on Labor Day.
“This vote should tell Allina Health that nurses are strong and are willing to hold out, for a contract that respects their sacrifice and their profession,” said Bunny Engeldorf, a member of the negotiating team for the Minnesota Nurses Association.
It is now the nurses’ turn to offer a new proposal before talks can resume. A spokesperson for the Minnesota Nurses Association said negotiators are working on the proposal, but gave no timetable on when that would be complete.
Representatives for Allina Health said that they are disappointed by the nurses’ vote, but would welcome the nurses back to work once an agreement is reached.
“There are very real issues that we need to resolve at the bargaining table, not the least of which is this insurance issue, which businesses across the state and across the nation are grappling with,” said David Kanihan, Vice-President of Communications for Allina Health.
Both sides have compromised on many issues since negotiations began, but have failed to find compromise on issues like charge nurse staffing and the transition from the nurses’ health care plans to the main plans offered to the rest of Allina’s employees.
“The Allina plans would be considered generous plans at other companies, there’s no question about that,” said Roger Feldman, the Blue Cross Professor of Insurance at the University of Minnesota. “And the union plans would be considered exceptions today.”
Feldman also said that Allina has another incentive to move the nurses off the union plans: so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans face hefty federal taxes beginning in 2020.
“One of the union plans is already far above that cap and there’s no sense in paying 40 percent of the cost of the premium to the government,” Feldman said.
He believes the two sides can come together, if the terms of the negotiation come down to compensation, and not personal animus.
“Because if it’s a disagreement over compensation, it can be settled, but if it’s a fight to the finish, they’ll be out for a long time,” Feldman said, referring to the nurses.
Feldman said it’s likely the strike will become the longest nurses strike in Minnesota history. Nurses at more than a dozen area hospitals walked off the job for 38 days in 1984.