Negotiators for Minnesota nurses, hospitals reach settlement

The two sides met Wednesday and reached a settlement that nurses will vote whether to approve July 6.

by Kyle Potter

After a one-day strike on June 10 and more than three months of tense negotiating, the Minnesota Nurses Association and 14 metro area hospitals are on the brink of finalizing a new three-year contract.

The two sides announced a tentative agreement between negotiators on Thursday, just five days before MNA’s 12,000 nurses were set to walk out from their hospitals indefinitely on July 6.  That strike date has been lifted.

The two parties met again Wednesday at the request of a federal mediator after Tuesday’s 12-hour negotiation yielded no results.

With the help of the mediator, both sides left the bargaining table at 11 p.m. Wednesday with a settlement.

Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Schriner  said there was no concrete change that brought about the compromise.

“I think that there was recognition that we needed to do something that was going to be a positive step for the patients and the community,” she said.

As throughout the contract negotiation process, staffing levels are at the heart of the settlement. Responsibility will be shifted to existing committees of nurses and hospital management at each hospital to resolve the dispute. There will be no concrete nurse-to-patient ratios, as nurses had been seeking.  

MNA’s bargaining team approved the hospital’s proposal of 1 percent and 2 percent pay raises in the second and third years of the new contract.

Hospitals agreed to drop proposed changes to nurses’ pension and health care plans. In previous contract proposals, hospitals cut pension rates from 1.75 percent to 1.2 percent.

The new contract must be ratified by MNA nurses in order to be accepted. Members from the MNA bargaining team are recommending approval.

Nurses will gather Tuesday in order to vote on ratifying the contract, according to a press release. Fifty-one percent of nurses voting must approve the contract for it to be accepted.

In a video posted on that blog, nurse and MNA negotiator Cindy Olson was visibly disappointed with the settlement.

“It’s not everything we had hoped for and put out for a win, but it’s not a loss either,” she said.

Olson said nurses need to strengthen the committees in order to have more weight in staffing level discussions.

Though hospitals undoubtedly came out on top in the staffing level debate, Schriner said neither side was a winner overall.  Avoiding an open-ended strike is a win for patients, she said.