Tentative deal struck between nurses, hospitals

11:59 AM, Jul 2, 2010   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Nurses Association's 12,000 members will vote Tuesday on whether to ratify a contract agreement between the union and 14 hospitals.

The nurses' union and Twin Cities hospitals reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Thursday, likely averting an open-ended nurses strike that was set to begin Tuesday.

Voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at two different locations: MNA offices in St. Louis Park and Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park.

Fifty-one percent of the nurses must vote in favor of the deal in order to ratify it.  If sixty-six percent of union members turn the contract down, the vote also serves as an authorization to strike.

The union's negotiating committees have agreed to recommend ratification, according to a joint statement released Thursday by the union and hospitals.

"The registered nurses and the hospitals believe a settlement of the labor agreement at this time is in the best interests of patients and our community," the statement said.

In the deal, the nurses gave up their demand for rigid nurse-to-patient ratios, which they said was needed to improve patient safety, but the hospitals called expensive and unnecessary.

In exchange, the hospitals dropped proposed cuts to pensions and health benefits.  The two sides agreed to work on staffing issues through an existing system of committees at the hospitals.

The three-year contract includes no raise during the first year, a one percent raise during the second year and a 2 percent raise during the third year.

According to a posting on the union's website, "all the hospitals' takebacks and concessions are gone, the pension is untouched and all the benefits of your current contract (including MNA Health Insurance, etc.) remain in place as they always have been.  In essence, your entire contract has been completely protected and preserved."

"You never walk away with what you wanted 100 percent," said Cindy Olson, a negotiator for the nurses.  "We don't have the staffing language in it that we want, but we as nurses will continue to advocate for our patients and their families."

MNA's statement and video reaction

The union's website said an all-member vote by nurses to ratify the contract will probably take place next Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents 12,000 nurses, and 14 area hospitals have been negotiating since March.  The nurses took part in a one-day strike last month and were scheduled to begin an open-ended strike on Tuesday.

They reached an agreement with help from federal mediators. 

"Minnesota Nurses Association and the hospitals have agreed to a renewed commitment to working through both parties' staffing issues through the existing committee systems at the various hospitals," the statement said. 

The affected hospitals are Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Bethesda Hospital, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Fairview Southdale Hospital, Mercy Hospital, North Memorial Medical Center, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, St. John's Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, United Hospital, Unity Hospital and the Riverside campus of University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

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