MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Around 4,800 nurses are preparing to launch a one-week strike at five hospitals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in a dispute over health insurance.
Minnesota Nurses Association members plan to walk out at 7 a.m. Sunday at hospitals operated by Allina Health — Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Mercy in Coon Rapids, United in St. Paul, Unity in Fridley, and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis. Allina says it plans to keep the facilities operating close to normally with a smaller staff of replacement nurses.
The Minnesota Nurses Association and representatives from Allina have been in talks all Friday. They were not talking about Sunday’s scheduled walkout but what will happen when nurses return to work a week from Sunday.
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association say what they want is for Allina officials to come back to the table and negotiate with them.
Until then, the union will focus on making sure that after a week on the picket line, its membership is called back to work in a timely fashion.
“It’s very upsetting that it has come to this,” said Angie Becchetti, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern and a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
Nurses represented by the association say there is no way to stop nurses from walking off the job Sunday morning.
“Nurses are prepared, and we’ve been preparing for this, but we need to show Allina that we are set to take this stage,” Becchetti said.
The nurses were locked in talks all Friday morning with Allina officials.
They say there was no talk about contract proposals. What they’re negotiating instead is how nurses will be called back to work after the one-week strike is complete.
Becchetti says the Minnesota Nurses Association is trying to avoid a repeat of what happened when nurses walked out in 2010.
“There was an issue in 2010,” she said, “quite a few nurses were out of work for quite some time after that, so it’s something the negotiating team is concerned about after this week-long strike.”
The nurses’ contract concerns include affordable health care, staffing levels and safety.
“Workplace violence is a huge issue,” Becchetti said. “It happens daily to our nurses…I get frequent calls from nurses when they are injured on the job. It’s something that we are asking for training, and we need more training to help deescalate situation and help protect ourselves.”
Allina Health CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler says she is prepared to get back to talks so nurses can get back to doing what they love.
“I would like to get back to the table as quickly as possible as long as we are both willing to engage in meaningful dialogue that addresses the health plan transition and issues that are important to the nurses,” she said.
Wheeler says more than 1,400 replacement nurses from different states are here in Minneapolis waiting to go to work once striking nurses take their place on the picket line.
She admits they are qualified nurses but not their nurses.
Wheeler hopes talks during the strike will lead to a contract everyone can live with.
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