Representatives for Allina Health and the union representing 4,800 of its hospital nurses ended a 12-hour negotiating session late Tuesday without reaching agreement.

Each side blamed the other for the latest failure in talks that have been going on since February.

Negotiators for the Minnesota Nurses Association said Allina continued with a nonstarter demand that nurses surrender their union-backed health plans and switch to the company's plans. Allina officials said they waited all day for a counterproposal by the union, which had called Tuesday's session. Both sides talked with federal mediators, but didn't meet face to face.

"The Allina Health team waited in a hotel conference room until just before 9 p.m. before adjourning for the day," according to an Allina memo to employees. "We never received a counterproposal."

Nurses with Allina's Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley went on strike for seven days in late June due to the failed talks.

They rejected an Allina contract offer in voting last week that authorized a second, unlimited strike. Union officials held off setting a strike date pending Tuesday's talks.

"Nurses are prepared to go out on strike five, six, seven weeks, whatever it takes," said Angela Becchetti, a member of the union bargaining team. "We will all leave our jobs ... rather than accept an offer that costs nurses thousands of dollars and puts their families at risk."

The stalemate centers on Allina's demand that nurses switch from their four union-backed health plans to its corporate plans at a savings of $10 million per year to the health system.

Nurses balked at surrendering the union plans — some because they like benefits that afford them protection given their high risk of on-the-job injury or illness, others because they want Allina to make other concessions.

After the strike, the two sides discussed preserving two union plans, but couldn't agree on how much the nurses should pay to save them.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744