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Nurses and Allina reopen talks as strike looms

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With nearly 5,000 Twin Cities nurses poised to go on strike against Allina Health Monday morning, union and company negotiators returned to the bargaining table Friday.

The Associated Press says talks began in the morning at a Bloomington hotel and were still going Friday night.

Health insurance has been the big sticking point in the talks, although the union is also pushing for workplace safety improvements and staffing changes.

Perhaps it's an encouraging sign that the Minnesota Nurses Association reported a tentative agreement this week in long-stalemated contract talks with Essentia Health in Duluth-Superior. Changes in health insurance coverage had been an issue in those talks, as well.

In the Twin Cities, nurses at five Allina hospitals already went on strike for a week this summer. That produced no breakthrough in contract talks, though, and union members authorized an open-ended strike last month.

Allina's vice-president of communications, David Kanihan, told WCCO radio Friday: “I think we are close to a settlement, and we’re very hopeful that today’s negotiation session will yield that."

Kanihan also told the station Allina is bringing 1,500 replacement nurses to the Twin Cities to fill in during a strike. He says about half of them also filled in during the June strike, so they would have some familiarity with Allina's facilities.

Also on Friday, the Minnesota Nurses Association said unions representing local emergency medical technicians and paramedics plan to join nurses on their picket lines even though they are not on strike.

On Saturday, the MNA announced that despite offers during a 22-hour negotiating session, no agreement was made on a new three-year contract.

An open-ended strike beginning at 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 5 will continue as planned.

"We gave it our all," Angela Becchetti, Registered Nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, said in the release. "Nurses have offered to eventually end their two remaining healthcare plans and move into the higher cost Allina health plans with bigger out-of-pocket costs. It wasn't enough."

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