Nurses with Allina Health will vote Monday on a contract proposal – about four weeks after they began an open-ended, unfair labor practices strike.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents the nearly 5,000 nurses at five Allina Health hospitals in the Twin Cities, said Friday its negotiating team will take Allina Health's latest package proposal (read about it here) to union members for a full vote.

The union said it's not making a recommendation on the proposal, while Penny Wheeler, the president and CEO of Allina Health, said in a statement the proposal "represents a true compromise that addresses all the issues raised by the union while offering a fair, respectful transition plan for nurses to the Allina Health core insurance plans."

The contract dispute has focused on health insurance coverage, with Allina Health wanting to transition the nurses to its corporate health plan. Nurses were also concerned about workplace safety and staffing issues.

"We hope all of our nurses will make their voices heard and will vote to accept our offer, put this strike behind us and return to the bedside," Wheeler added.

The nurses will vote Monday at sites near the hospitals where nurses are striking. If there's a majority who vote to ratify the contract, the union will meet with Allina officials to execute a strike settlement agreement, which will include return to work provisions, the Minnesota Nurses Association said.

If the majority votes to reject Allina's proposal, it will extend the strike and both sides will return to the negotiating table "at a later date."

The stakes are rising

The strike began Sept. 5 at five Twin Cities hospitals: Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Unity in Fridley and Mercy in Coon Rapids.

And the stakes of the strike have been rising – for both the nurses and Allina Health. The nurses have until Oct. 1 to return to work, or they’ll have to pay COBRA if they want to continue their health insurance coverage.

The longer the strike goes, the more it’s costing Allina Health to pay part-time nurses to cover for striking nurses. The nurses’ one-week strike back in June cost the health care system $20 million, WCCO reported. Work Day Minnesota says Allina is spending 10 times what it would cost it to settle the contract on replacement nurses.

Allina hired roughly 1,500 temporary nurses, the Pioneer Press reported, while nearly 600 nurses have crossed the picket line and are working instead of striking, Allina Health says.

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