Picketing underway on final day of nurses strike, some to return to work Wednesday night

[anvplayer video=”5135016″ station=”998122″]

Wednesday is the final day of a three-day nurses strike across Minnesota.

Negotiations for new contracts are on pause until at least Thursday, when thousands of nurses are scheduled to return to work after walking off the job this past Monday.

An update took place Wednesday at 12 p.m. outside of M Health Fairview’s Southdale Hospital from the Minnesota Nurses Association, the nurses’ union, on the final day of the strike.

Watch the update via the video player below.

According to the MNA, their members will be out once again walking the picket lines around 7 a.m. Wednesday at more than a dozen hospitals in the state.

The strike continues to affect 15,000 nurses who left he hospital to walk the picket line, after the union and seven health care providers were unable to reach agreements after negotiating for more than five months.

According to Allina Health, nurses who are striking will start returning to work Wednesday evening, with MNA nurses returning to United Hospital at 6:30 p.m. and at 7 a.m. for Abbott Northwestern, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Mercy Hospital-Unity Campus in Fridley.

In addition, Allina says assignments for traveling nurses will end when the striking nurses return to each site.

A key point in the negotiations comes down to pay for nurses’ contracts.

Sam Fettig, an MNA spokesperson, says nurses are now calling for a 10% raise in the first year of a three-year contract, 8.5% in the second year and 6% in the third year.

However, the seven health care providers are said to be offering a much lower pay increase at around 12% over the proposed three-year deal.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development says the average salary for a full-time registered nurse is about $87,048 a year. Findings y the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that number at $84,030.

In a statement, Fettig wrote, “Nurses are seeking fair pay increases that recognize sacrifices made during the pandemic, as well as the rising cost of living as inflation reaches nearly nine percent.”

MNA President Mary Turner says nurses’ working conditions are a large part of the equation, too.

“If it was all about money, we would all be travel nurses right now because during the thick of the pandemic,” Turner says. “As a COVID nurse, I sat next to people making $300 dollars an hour, and believe you me, I’m not making $300 an hour.”

If a contract agreement can’t be made between both sides after the strike, a Mitchell Hamline School of Law professor says mediation may be needed.

“It’s really hard to predict in a labor tension situation what’s going to happen, but I think eventually, they’re going to have to sit down with the help of a mediator and try to get this resolved,” said Professor Joseph Daly. “They may actually have to go on another strike before they actually get to that point.”

Once the strike is over, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will continue to see if and when both sides return to the bargaining table.

The Twin Cities Hospitals Group, which represents four providers, told KSTP-TV Tuesday they expect talks to continue next week with the nurses union.