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Allina nurses strike at Minneapolis area hospitals

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Around 4,800 nurses at five hospitals in the Minneapolis area began a strike Sunday, expected to last a week, over a standstill in their contract negotiations.

Nurses of the Minnesota Nurses Association began the strike at 7:00 a.m. at hospitals that were operated by Allina Health. The primary point of contention is Allina’s attempts to transfer union nurses to the same health insurance plans as over 30,000 Allina employees – health plans that have lower monthly premiums, but higher out-of-pocket costs, ABC News reports.

The union’s president, Mary Turner, said that members are going to hold demonstrations for 12 hours daily at each of the five hospitals involved: Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Mercy in Coon Rapids, United in St. Paul, Unity in Fridley, and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis.

There have been no new contract talks, as the nurses’ contracts ended on May 31. Allina intends to keep the health care facilities running with replacement nurses. David Kanihan, Allina spokesperson, assured the public that, “All Allina Health hospitals are open and caring for patients during the strike.”

Kanihan also said that the transition to replacement nurses has been going well, with the hospitals operating normally and receiving consistent patient volumes for a Sunday in June.

Allina’s earlier contract offer was rejected by union nurses, who argue that the terms of the proposal would shift much of Allina’s health care costs to its nurses.

The company, in turn, says the move is to ensure that health care plans are used frugally, and would lessen their costs by $10 million each year.

Other issues that have not been addressed are relate to workplace safety and nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Allina has also offered nurses a 2% salary raises in each of three years, but the union seeks 3% increases in each of the years.

The last nurses’ strike in the area was in 2010, when 12,000 nurses stalled operations at 14 hospitals in the metropolitan in one day. Nurses in the other Twin Cities hospital systems had already reached contract agreements months ago.

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