Nurses, Allina Health reach 'tentative deal' that could end long-running strike

A "tentative deal' has been struck between striking nurses and Allina Health after a mammoth negotiation with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.
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A "tentative deal' has been struck between striking nurses and Allina Health after a mammoth negotiation with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

Dayton's office says an agreement was reached 17 hours after the mediation session began at 11 a.m. Monday at the Governor's Residence in St. Paul, with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and Allina Health coming together at Dayton's request.

MNA nurses have been on an open-ended strike since Labor Day – 36 straight days – and held an early seven-day strike in June in a dispute over workplace safety, staffing issues and plans by Allina Health to transition nurses to its corporate health plan.

According to a release from the MNA, which represents 5,000 nurses working for Allina Health, more details of the deal are expected to be announced on Tuesday, with union members taking a vote on the proposal on Thursday, which could end the strike.

But Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director, did give some hints as to the improved conditions offered by Allina in a press release early Tuesday morning.

"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."

The cost of the strike

The strike began Sept. 5 at five Twin Cities hospitals: Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Unity in Fridley and Mercy in Coon Rapids.

Union members rejected a proposal from Allina Health just a week ago, signaling that their protest would continue.

Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith now hope Monday night's breakthrough will signal an end to the industrial action, saying in a statement: "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."

The longer the strike goes, the more it’s costing Allina Health to pay part-time nurses to cover for striking nurses. The nurses’ one-week strike back in June cost the health care system $20 million, WCCO reported. Work Day Minnesota says Allina is spending 10 times what it would cost it to settle the contract on replacement nurses.

Allina hired roughly 1,500 temporary nurses, the Pioneer Press reported, while nearly 600 nurses have crossed the picket line and are working instead of striking, Allina Health says.

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