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Strike possible as contract negotiations at HealthPartners break down

Union members are planning a strike vote.

Union leaders representing 1,800 workers at HealthPartners are calling for a vote on a 7-day strike after contract negotiations broke down with the health care provider.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which counts nurses, dental assistants, midwives and nurse practitioners among its members, said that five straight days of bargaining after four months of negotiations ended on Saturday morning with no agreement.

The current contract for workers expired on Saturday, with union leaders accusing the company's management of a "continued insistence on taking away healthcare from frontline staff."

It has called a vote to be held on Thursday starting at 6 a.m., which could trigger a 7-day Unfair Labor Practices strike.

SEIU is recommending members vote "yes," and if they do it would trigger a 10-day notice period before a strike could commence.

HealthPartners, which also provides insurance, posted revenue of $7 billion in 2018, of which $146.5 million was net income, albeit this was down on the $175.5 million income it made in 2017.

The company has embarked on a cuts program in recent months, announcing the closure of 30 of its retail pharmacies, affecting 300 jobs, as well as closing a home care service amid an expected cut in federal funding, which the Pioneer Press reported resulted in 70 job losses.

"There is no reason a $7 billion organization that gives its CEO an $800,000 pay-raise should be taking one dime out of the pockets of its frontline caregivers to pad the corporate bottom line," said SEIU Healthcare Minnesota executive vice president Phillip Cryan.

"HealthPartners members in Minnesota are fighting for everyone’s right to great healthcare. When health workers have to potentially go on strike to guarantee access to quality health care, you know our healthcare system is broken."

In a statement issued to the Star Tribune, HealthPartners said it expects that negotiations will re-open in the near future.

"Our SEIU-represented colleagues have market-leading benefits, and that will continue even with our proposal," it said.

"We're proposing a set of modifications that would support better health and encourage our colleagues to get care in high-quality, more affordable settings. We feel that these are fair and reasonable modifications, especially given the financial headwinds facing the health care industry, including our organization."

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