Countdown continues on nurses' strike

  • Article by: CHEN MAY YEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2010 - 9:12 PM

The negotiations remain on hold, but the union hasn't given notice of its walkout plans.

Five days after Twin Cities nurses voted to authorize a strike, there's been little movement on either side.

Both sides have publicly declared they would like to return to the negotiating table -- to stave off what would be the biggest strike in nursing history if 12,000 Twin Cities nurses walk out of 14 hospitals.

But neither appears willing to pick up the phone first.

Last Wednesday, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted overwhelmingly to reject labor and pension contracts from the hospitals, setting the stage for a one-day strike. The nurses, who are required to give 10 days' notice to the hospitals, are not saying when that might happen.

If they act Tuesday, the earliest they could strike would be Friday, June 4, four days after their current contract ends.

So whose turn is it to make a move? Either side could, said Mark Mathison, a labor attorney at Gray Plant Mooty who is not involved in the negotiations. However, he notes: "They may be loath strategically to be the first one."

On Monday, the hospitals issued a statement titled: "Hospitals Ask Union to Negotiate Before Disrupting Patients' Lives with General Strike."

"We hope the union is willing to put aside its rigid agenda of inflexible work rules and pay increases that are outrageous even in good economic times," hospital spokeswoman Maureen Schriner said. "We are asking the union to drop the posturing for just a bit and at least make a good-faith effort to negotiate a contract that is fair and reasonable."

The union quickly shot back.

"The Twin Cities hospitals continue to be completely disingenuous with their public message," said Susan Mason, lead negotiator for the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). "Their public rhetoric literally does not match up with reality. For example, since we gave our emphatic answer on May 19 with a near-unanimous rejection of their contract offers, only one of the six hospital systems has contacted the Minnesota Nurses Association with a request to return to the bargaining table."

Allina Hospitals and Clinics sent an e-mail to the MNA saying it was interested in reopening negotiations, and the two sides have been discussing how to proceed.

Chen May Yee • 612-673-7434

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  • What's at stake

    Monday May 24, 2010

    Who: 12,000 nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association at 14 Twin Cities hospitals.

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