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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Minnesota nurses, hospital groups reach deal to avoid strike

On Tuesday, representatives from hospitals and the Minnesota Nurses Association announced that they had reached an agreement on a new contract, averting a strike by the state’s 15,000 registered nurses during the winter holidays.

A “long night” of negotiating at many tables in and around the Twin Cities and Twin Ports resulted in the agreements. The deals, which are subject to ratification by union members, contain salary rises of up to 18 percent spread out throughout the three-year contracts.

North Memorial Hospital nurse and MNA president Mary C. Turner hailed the deal as “historic” for the nurses and patients they care for. “Hospital administrators have been under-staffing our units and under-valuing our nurses for years, effectively driving them out of the profession,” she said.

According to Sam Fettig, a spokesperson for the nurses union, the agreements offer nurses greater input in the number of patients they care for at any one time and shield nurses from punishment if they express concerns about safe staffing levels.

If a contract agreement is not reached by December 10, nurses in the Twin Cities metro and Duluth region will go on strike for three weeks. On Tuesday, hospital administrators expressed delight that the strike letters had been rescinded and praised the preliminary agreements that had been reached.

Paul Omodt, a spokesman for the Twin Cities Hospital Group, which represents four of the health systems, said, “The new tentative agreement shows that when we work together, we can develop staffing language that meets the unique needs of our hospitals, our nurses, and most importantly, our patients.” Because of the ever-changing nature of hospitals, this agreement will assist guarantee that our patients always get top-notch treatment.

In a statement, Allina Health executives referred to the hospital agreements as “fair and equitable to our workers, patients, and communities.” During this period of increasing sickness and demand, we are grateful to be able to focus our whole attention once again on caring for the community.

Unpredictably high numbers of patients with respiratory viruses as COVID-19, influenza, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) have flooded hospitals. In the event that substitute employees are needed, health authorities have warned that a nurses’ strike might have a negative impact on patient care.

Since March, nurses and hospital administration have been negotiating a new three-year contract, with the nurses originally demanding salary raises of up to 30 percent. Furthermore, they have advocated for increased safety measures, better recruiting and retention practices, and more favorable staffing ratios.

As a result of the coronavirus epidemic, one in five nurses have left their positions in healthcare, prompting concerns that the nursing profession is in crisis.

For a long time, administration at the hospital argued that nurses’ requests were too expensive and impossible. They also said that the epidemic had a monetary impact on their institutions.

Despite going on strike for three days in September, the two parties were unable to come to an agreement. However, nurses refused the hospital’s repeated attempts to bring in mediators.

It seems that the standoff was broken thanks to the threat of a three-week holiday strike.

Chris Rubesch, a nurse at Essentia in Duluth and the first vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said the preliminary agreements would help solve “chronic short-staffing” with greater compensation and workplace rights.

In a statement, Rubesch praised the nurses for “insisting that employees and patients deserve better in our hospitals” during the lengthy nine-month bargaining process.

Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United, Unity, Children’s Minneapolis, Children’s St. Paul, Methodist, Riverside, Southdale, St. Joe’s, St. John’s, and North Memorial are among the metropolitan area’s impacted hospitals. Allina, Children’s Minnesota, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview, and North Memorial are the hospital networks in question.

Duluth’s St. Luke’s Hospital and Superior, Wisconsin’s Essentia Health System are also impacted by this outage in the Twin Ports area.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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