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Nurse contract negotiations ongoing, strike possible

June 13, 2019 10:18 AM

Thursday, nurses at Children's Minnesota in the metro will vote on whether to go on strike.

Those nurses are just some of the 15,000 nurses currently working without a contract across the metro.

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A "no" vote on the contract Thursday would give nurses at Children's Minnesota the authority to strike. However, it's unclear when that strike could happen or how long it could last.

The negotiating team told KSTP they are still willing to talk with hospital officials.

"We want a contract that respects the work that the nurses do and keeps nurses at the bedside, raises our standards of care," Elaina Hane, a nurse with Children's Hospital, said. "We want to settle the contract."

Nurses have held several informational pickets throughout the metro in recent weeks.

Members of the negotiating team said those pickets have helped pave the way for progress with hospitals, when it comes to workplace violence protection.

However, nurses said one large sticking point remains.

"They don't want to talk about insurance at all," one nurse said. "They tell us that (they) have no interest to discuss insurance when that is the nurses' number one, biggest issue."

Katie Penson, senior director of clinical services and critical care with Children's Minnesota, said hospital officials are disappointed by the possible strike vote.

"We are disappointed that MNA is holding a strike vote, especially after the union repeatedly declined our requests for a mediator and we have reached a number of agreements that support the union's priorities, including workplace safety," Penson said in a statement. "We have also offered to match the annual wage increases the nurses received during the last contract, and made it clear there's room to move higher.

"Instead of embracing this progress, the union has made health insurance a sticking point. Given the rising costs of health care, it should come as no surprise that the cost for our most comprehensive plan with the most generous benefits has increased at a greater rate than other plans for employees. Nevertheless, Children's pays the lion's share of the costs for this plan as well as the other two available. The nurses also have the same plan options and pay the same for premiums as all of Children's non-union employees. Our goal is to come to an agreement that works for everyone and we hope to make progress when we return to bargaining on Friday."

If they decide to strike, nurses would give hospitals a 10-day notice to make sure patients are being taken care of.

Negotiations are scheduled for Friday.

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Credits

Rebecca Omastiak & Ashley Zilka

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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