Mediator brings Allina, nurses back to the bargaining table

Allina Health and its nurses have been called back to the bargaining table by a federal mediator.

Thousands of nurses at five hospitals went on strike Sept. 5 after negotiations on a three-year contract broke off earlier this month. The contract expired June 1.

Both sides said the mediator wants to resume talks on Tuesday.

Healthcare has been a key sticking point in the negotiations.

The nurses want to keep their current healthcare plan. Allina says it's too expensive. Nurses say it is necessary, because they are prone to more injuries and illnesses because of the nature of their jobs.

Rick Fuentes, spokesperson for the Minnesota Nurses Association union, said there are other key issues that have to be resolved.

"We're very curious as to what sort of stance and what proposals Allina will be putting forward," he said. "But the nurses will stand firm that they need to see some improvements on workplace safety and staffing."

In a statement, Allina said, "In our last negotiating session, Allina Health agreed to all of the union's latest workplace safety proposals, including 24/7 security in the Emergency Departments, and the union withdrew all but one of its remaining staffing proposals. Both sides also agreed to a two percent annual wage increase, in addition to step increases already built into the contracts."

The striking nurses will lose their current health insurance on Oct. 1 if they don't return to work. Fuentes says many have already been shopping the state healthcare marketplace or getting onto the plans of their spouses.

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