Nurses reached a tentative agreement Saturday on a new three-year contract with Children's Minnesota and its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals — a deal they say includes a "huge win" on health insurance costs.
The deal came together at 5:13 a.m. and prompted the nurses to withdraw the threat of a strike made possible by a strike-authorization vote Thursday.
"We're very relieved we were able to come to an agreement," said Trisha Ochsner, a nurse at Children's Minneapolis who was part of the negotiating team.
The 21-hour negotiations session also found Children's and the nurses agreeing to wage increases of 3%, 3% and 2.25% for the next three years. Contract deals negotiated in 2010, 2013 and 2016 offered no more than 2% increases annually.
In a statement, Children's also cited efforts to improve workplace safety as part of a package that it says included many accomplishments.
"Our goal from the start was to come to an agreement that works for everyone," Katie Penson, senior director of clinical services for critical care, was quoted in the statement as saying. "We successfully accomplished this."
Nurses resumed talks Friday with the intention of holding off on the setting of a potential strike date until the session was completed. Children's had said it was surprised by the strike-authorization vote and thought it unnecessary.
Sydney Pederson, a nurse at Children's St. Paul and a member of the negotiating team, said she believed Children's had greater motivation to cut a deal as a result of the strike vote. Nurses made clear they were "committed to bargaining for as long as it took," she said.
A major concern for nurses has been the rising cost of health benefits.
The cost of insuring a family under the plan that provides the most generous benefits has increased 33% over nine years, but the cost to employees has risen 133%, while the cost to the employer has increased by 8%, Rick Fuentes, a spokesman for the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), said Saturday.
Under the proposed deal, any percentage increase in that plan during the next three years would be no higher for employees than it would be for the employer. The agreement also calls for changes in a second-tier plan by which Children's would pay 70% of any rate increase and the nurses would pay 30%.
When asked for additional comment on the health benefits proposal, Penson said in a statement: "The parties agreed to provisions that provide a measure of stability for the nurses with respect to monthly premiums, that permit Children's to retain needed flexibility on how to address increasing costs and that involve ongoing discussions with MNA concerning the plans and claims."
The deal on health-benefit costs covers only the three-year contract period, Ochsner said.
Saturday's tentative agreement cancels the strike-authorization vote. Nurses will vote on the contract proposal on Thursday.
Talks continue between nurses and Allina Health, Fairview Health, HealthEast, Methodist Hospital and North Memorial Health Hospital.
"We hope they take the path that Children's took and settle soon," Fuentes said of the other health systems.