MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After 17 hours of negotiation, representatives for the striking nurses and Allina Health have reached a tentative agreement.
The two sides had been meeting at the Governor’s Mansion since 11 a.m. Monday morning, trying to reach a new contract deal.
Gov. Mark Dayton asked the striking nurses and Allina Health representatives, including CEO Penny Wheeler, to meet with him and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and federal mediators. He said he did not want them to leave until an agreement was reached.
The Dayton administration and federal mediators have been meeting separately with both sides since the strike began.
Around 3:30 a.m., a spokesperson stepped out and said talks are still going on. Roughly an hour later, Gov. Dayton at Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced a deal had been made.
Dayton and Smith released a joint statement saying: “The two sides have successfully negotiated a tentative agreement. We thank the Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Health for working to reach this tentative agreement, which will allow them to resume the quality health care that Minnesotans need and deserve.”
Wheeler also made a statement saying, in part, that she was pleased with the tentative agreement.
The biggest point of contention in the strike were the insurance plans.
Wheeler said the new deal states nurse-only insurance plans will phase out completely by the end of 2018. To help nurses transitioning away from these plans, Allina will offer additional HRA/HAS contributions through 2021.
According to Wheeler, the agreement also includes a creative of Charge Nurses Assignment Task Force, which will help evaluate how charge nurses take patient assignments. The nurses will also have 24-hour security in the Emergency Department.
On Monday, WCCO spoke with a professor from the University of Minnesota about Dayton’s involvement with the mediation. He said it’s not rare and that Dayton tried to do the same thing with the Minnesota Orchestra lockout a few years ago.
The governor can certainly ask the sides to come together, but in the nurses situation he doesn’t actually have power.
The hospitals affected by this strike are Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, Phillips Eye Institute, United and Unity. At last count, Allina said there are 639 nurses who have decided not to strike and gone back to work.
Last week, nurses overwhelmingly rejected Allina’s latest contract offer.
Even if a deal is reached Tuesday, the nurses still have to vote it up or down. A vote is expected to take place Thursday.
Some nurses continued picketing on Tuesday outside of Abbot Northwestern.
Many nurses said they felt they still got an unfair deal and would vote not to approve the new contract proposal.
Abbot Northwestern nurse and MNA member Shari Eaton expressed a desire to keep the union strong.
“People need to understand the passion we have for caring for our patients,” Eaton said.
Despite continued concerns from some union members, leaders of MNA said they offer their unanimous support for the new deal.
“The agreement is the result of an enormous amount of work,” said Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director. “The nurses have shown remarkable strength and courage to earn improvements in workplace safety, nurse staffing policies, and multi-year contributions to accounts that will ease their transition from their contract health insurance plans to Allina core plans. Nurses have cooperated with easing out of these plans and deserve to be protected through any future benefit reductions by Allina Health, which the company has provided.
As part of the agreement, nurses will leave the picketing area at Stewart Park just outside of Abbot Northwestern they have occupied for several weeks by midnight on Tuesday.
Allina would not disclose how much paying for replacement employees and other costs from the strike cost the company.
However, the company did share that the week-long nurse strike in June cost the company $20 million. The current strike lasted five weeks.