MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thousands of nurses in the Twin Cities said they’re willing to go on strike over a contract dispute with Allina Health.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents about 5,000 nurses, said a majority of its members voted Monday to reject the latest contract offer.

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These members work at hospitals across the metro, including United Hospital in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

The union said nurses rejected the contract offer because it shifts too much of the company’s health care costs to the nurses.

One nurse said the offer is a high-deductible plan with higher out-of-pocket maximums. She said nurses would have to pay between $4,000 – $12,000 to care for their families and another $1,000 on pharmacy bills.

The nurses started negotiating with Allina in February. Their contract expired on May 31 of this year.

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Allina Health said they offered an across the board wage increase, provisions that would significantly expand the union’s voice in workplace safety issues and a phased, multi-year transition to the same health insurance plans that more than 30,000 other Allina Health employees and their families already use.

Allina said moving the nurses to its corporate health plan would reduce its health costs by $10 million a year.

Nurses at all four hospitals voted Monday by more than a 66 percent majority to reject the contract and authorize the negotiating committee to call a strike.

Now, the union must give Allina Health 10 days notice before going on strike.

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In the meantime, Allina believes through good faith negotiations, a strike can be avoided. The health care system hopes the union will agree to talk soon.