Allina Health announced it will resume negotiations with the union representing roughly 4,800 of its Twin Cities nurses in an effort to head off a seven-day strike scheduled to start June 19 at five Twin Cities hospitals.
Talks will start Monday morning.
“A strike benefits nobody,” Allina Health said in a statement provided by spokesman David Kanihan.
Monday’s talks were recommended by a federal mediator and will take place as long as nurses on the bargaining team from all five facilities can get off work to attend, said a spokesman for the union, the Minnesota Nurses Association.
The last negotiating session on May 31 ended early, as the two sides reached a stalemate over Allina’s demand that the nurses phase out their union health plans and switch to the plans all other Allina employees receive. Whether renewed talks signal compromise is unclear; Allina’s statement indicated that the health system will continue to pursue a “resolution that is equitable to all employees and sustainable for Allina Health and the communities we serve.”
The health system believes it would save $10 million per year by switching the nurses to its plans — partly because the union health plans have higher premiums but lower deductibles that give nurses little incentive to choose cheaper forms of care such as urgent care clinics over emergency rooms when appropriate.
The nurses’ union has argued that their benefits are deserved given the risks of infection and physical injury that come with their jobs, and that they won’t surrender the plans without Allina making concessions on other issues.
The last contract expired June 1, but its terms remain in effect for now.
The union on Wednesday announced a strike that will start at 7 a.m. June 19 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.
Allina has hired a contract agency to provide temporary nurses during those seven days and keep its hospitals open.