SEIU Healthcare Minnesota announced today that its members have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract covering about 3,500 workers at five health systems: Children’s Hospitals, Fairview Health Services, HealthEast, North Memorial and Park Nicollet Health Services.
The two sides finalized the agreement last Friday, just 48 hours before their previous contract expired. Members of the union’s bargaining team were unanimous in recommending a vote to ratify the contract in the coming weeks.
Addressing health and safety concerns was a top priority for workers heading into negotiations, according to SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which announced the tentative agreement in a media release today.
Maxine Maxon, a nursing assistant at the Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, said provisions in the new contract will protect workers and patients:
“With the shift in healthcare towards primary, preventive, and ambulatory care, the patients we see in our hospitals are sicker, and the threat of infectious agents is greater than ever before. We are proud that we won stronger protections for our health and safety at work, as well as the health and safety of our patients and anyone who visits our hospitals.”
Billie Brown, a mental health assistant at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, added:
“We are the people who take care of our patients and take care of our hospitals, so we want to make sure that no one is put in an unsafe situation if it can be avoided. Our new contract will help us limit exposure to infectious agents in our hospitals and it addresses our right to refuse work in certain circumstances where our health and safety may be at risk.”
The tentative agreement also calls for a wage increase in all three years of the contract: 2 percent this year, 1.5 percent the following year and 1 percent in the final year. The contract also would increase the amount of tuition reimbursement available for career advancement and an increase in employers’ contribution toward members’ pension plan by 7 percent.
Cynthia Davis, a nursing assistant at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, said an increase in tuition support was overdue:
“For too long, our tuition reimbursement has been underutilized by our members who wish to advance their careers in healthcare. We made a significant step forward in the amount of tuition reimbursement available to us in this contract, and made it easier to use for any members who need it.”
Meanwhile, the union’s release hinted at a looming dispute between Allina Health and its workers:
Allina Health refused to extend it contractual agreements with staff at eight hospitals, setting up a potential labor dispute over health and safety protections and their desire to subcontract middle class jobs to the lowest bidder.
“I’m glad that hospital workers across Twin Cities hospitals in our union won stronger health and safety protections,” said Wilai Carlson, an Environmental Services Aide at Allina Buffalo Hospital. “It’s a shame that Allina won’t agree to common-sense provisions to help keep us and our patients safe, including an extension of their commitment not to subcontract our jobs.”