After months of tense negotiations, the Minnesota Nurses Association has reached a tentative agreement with 14 Twin Cities area hospitals.
The two sides had been battling over wages, benefits and staffing levels. The hospitals asked nurses to accept pension cuts; the nurses asked for consistent nurse-patient ratios and cited recent studies showing improved patient outcomes with adequate nurse staffing. When the hospitals refused to budge, the nurses went on strike, the single largest one-day nursing strike in US history. In response, the hospitals re-iterated their original proposals, so the nurses recently voted to authorize an open-ended strike, if necessary.
Both sides are citing the July 1 agreement as a victory. In the tentative agreement, the nurses maintain their pension benefits (the hospitals had wanted to cut them by 1/3), as well as their seniority perks and health plan. They also agreed to a zero wage increase next year, followed by a one percent raise in the second contract year and a two percent raise the third year. Nurse-patient ratios are not part of the agreement. Nurse leaders, however, argue that the absence of ratios does not signify failure. Rather, they say, the strike and resultant press have raised the public’s awareness of safe staffing, an ideal they say they will continue to pursue. A blog post on the MNA website states, “We have only BEGUN to fight for safe staffing.”
Twin Cities area nurses will vote on the new agreement Tuesday July 6. Fifty percent or more must vote yes to ratify the agreement.