A 22-hour bargaining session Friday and early Saturday brought no deal between Allina Health and its 4,800 hospital nurses, meaning a strike will start as planned Labor Day.
Picketing will start at 7 a.m. Monday at Abbott Northwestern and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Unity Hospital in Fridley and Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.
Nurses already went on strike for seven days in June, as Allina and the union could not agree on health insurance. The talks have centered on Allina’s demand to eliminate four union-backed health plans and move nurses to its corporate health plans.
Allina previously agreed to keep two of the union plans in place, but wanted current nurses to pay almost all of the cost increases and future nurses to be ineligible for them. A statement from the Minnesota Nurses Association Saturday morning said that nurse negotiators agreed at one point during the overnight bargaining to also phase out those two plans, but that Allina wanted that done no later than 2020.
“We gave it our all,” said Angela Becchetti, an Abbott nurse on the union bargaining committee. “Nurses have offered to eventually end their two remaining healthcare plans ... It wasn’t enough.”
Allina officials dislike the union plans, which lack cost controls such as higher deductibles that motivate efficient purchases, and believe the health system can save $10 million per year by switching the nurses to its corporate plans.
Nurses also have asked for more annual safety training on how to de-escalate agitated and potentially violent patients, a guarantee of a security guard working in emergency rooms 24 hours a day, and a change in staffing so that charge nurses don’t have direct patient assignments and can instead maintain supervisory roles and fill in for nurses when they need breaks or become busy with other patients.
A statement from Allina Saturday morning stated that the health system had made concessions in these areas and offered a “great deal.”
“In the course of this bargaining session, we met the union more than half way on many issues, including accepting virtually all of the union’s proposals on workplace safety, offering a major compromise on charge nurse staffing, and going even farther on our already significant insurance compromise,” the statement read.
In anticipation of a strike, Allina has canceled some services such as tours and childbirth classes at Abbott, but intends to maintain core services such as emergency care.
Roughly 1,500 temporary nurses have been hired from across the United States to provide patient care during the strike. Half worked during the previous strike.
Pressure has increased on the two sides as negotiations have continued for seven months. A statement from Gov. Mark Dayton’s office was released Friday indicating that he had recently talked with leaders on both sides “to hear their concerns and strongly encourage that both sides reach agreement.”