Striking nurses will take down picket lines outside five Twin Cities facilities tonight after their bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with Allina Health on a three-year contract early this morning.
Nurses will take a ratification vote Thursday. Their approval would trigger a separate agreement, also reached during overnight talks hosted by Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, regarding a return to work for 4,700 union members who began an open-ended strike on Labor Day.
Unlike a contract proposal voted down earlier this month, the new tentative agreement comes with a unanimous recommendation from nurses’ bargaining team, according to a press release issued by their union, the Minnesota Nurses Association.
“The agreement is the result of an enormous amount of work,” MNA Executive Director Rose Roach said, crediting Allina nurses for showing “remarkable strength and courage” in their fight for a fair contract.
And while they agreed to phase out their preferred, union-sponsored health insurance plans by 2018, nurses finally extracted a guarantee from Allina that their benefits under the provider’s “core” insurance plan will not diminish through 2021.
Nurses also forced Allina to compensate them in exchange for giving up their preferred insurance plans. They secured additional contributions in four of the next five years to tax-advantaged health spending accounts that, Roach said, “will ease their transition from their contract health insurance plans to Allina core plans.
“Nurses have cooperated with easing out of these plans and deserve to be protected through any future benefit reductions by Allina Health, which the company has provided.”
Additionally, the tentative agreement calls for wage increases of 2 percent in all three years of the contract, around-the-clock security postings in the hospitals’ emergency rooms and creation of three labor-management bodies to give nurses a greater voice over health insurance benefits, workplace safety and staffing.
Nurses have pushed hard for Allina to reign in the practice of assigning patients to charge nurses in its facilities. In the tentative agreement, Allina agrees it is “essential” to give charge nurses time to manage workflow, serve as a resource to staff and assist with unanticipated changes in patients’ status.
A Charge Nurse Assignment Task Force created by the pending contract would seek to “review units and shifts where charge nurses are regularly assigned full or partial patient assignments,” and it includes a provision for mediation if members of the task force are unable to agree on whether patient assignments are appropriate in a given unit.