MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Three weeks into the Allina nurses strike, both sides are heading back to the bargaining table Tuesday.
A federal mediator asked the nurses and hospital officials to resume negotiations.
On Tuesday morning, nurses gathered outside of the Radisson Blu on Seventh Street where, inside, the General Mills shareholders meeting was taking place.
Part of the demonstration was to get the attention of General Mills executive John Church, who is on the board of directors for Allina.
Several nurses were able to get into the meeting, but say they didn’t see Church in the room. But they celebrated after making their presence known to other shareholders.
Several nurses left the scene to go back to the negotiation table. Angela Becchetti is on the negotiations committee.
“You know these nurses are making history right now,” she said. “And unfortunately we could have settled this six months ago if they just would have listened to the nurses concerns, but these nurses are determined on their first week of strike.”
Thousands of Twin Cities nurses went on strike on Sept. 5 after their union and Allina were unable to agree on a new, three-year contract. More than 4,000 initially joined the strike. Some have since crossed the picket line and gone back to work.
The biggest sticking points have been health insurance and workplace safety.
Temporary nurses have been working at the five hospitals affected during the strike.
Nurses say they hope they will meet an agreement Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Allina is responding to what happened:
It’s disappointing that on the very day we are set to resume negotiations and work toward a settlement that will bring our nurses back to the bedside, the union continues to focus on PR tactics.
That being said, Allina Health looks forward to resuming negotiations on today. Striking Allina Health nurses have already lost three weeks of wages, and are in danger of having to pay COBRA rates for their health insurance if they don’t return to work by October 1.
We greatly appreciate the 572 Allina Health nurses who have so far made the decision to cross the picket line and continue caring for patients. They, along with 1,500 temporary nurses and thousands of other Allina Health physicians and employees, have continued to deliver outstanding care throughout the strike. But now it’s time to bring all our incredibly talented nurses back to the bedside.
We can do so if the union is willing to work with us to address the same issues that every other major Minnesota employer is facing – the imperative to phase out Cadillac-style insurance plans that are not financially sustainable.
In our last negotiating session, Allina Health agreed to all of the union’s latest workplace safety proposals, including 24/7 security in the Emergency Departments, and the union withdrew all but one of its remaining staffing proposals. Both sides also agreed to a two percent annual wage increase, in addition to step increases already built into the contracts.
We sincerely hope that today the union will work collaboratively with us to reach agreement on a fair transition for our nurses to the Gold plus-rated health insurance plans that are offered to all of our other employees. These plans are already used by 17 percent of the nurses union’s own members who work for Allina Health, and were accepted by union negotiators at three Allina Health hospitals. The most popular of these plans features a low $300 individual/$900 family deductible, and nurses are eligible for full coverage after only 16 hours of work each week.
We believe we can reach an agreement if both sides come to the table with a spirit of collaboration, and we are looking forward to a productive session.
General Mills also responded to a request for a statement:
We have nothing to add, as it isn’t related to our organization. We have many executives that sit on non-profit and corporate boards, independently of their roles at General Mills. We encourage our leaders to serve the community by donating their time and leadership expertise.