Allina, Nurses Return to Talks

Dates set for two new bargaining sessions.

Minneapolis-based Allina Health and the Minnesota Nurses Association are returning to the bargaining table in an effort to negotiate a new contract for 4,800 nurses who work at five Allina hospitals. The parties are scheduled for negotiation sessions on July 15 and July 22.
The Minnesota Nurses Association conducted a seven-day strike in June to draw attention to the ongoing disagreements about a new contract for the nurses. The key issues have been the health care plan for the nurses, workplace safety issues and staffing policies.
After the conclusion of the strike, Allina floated a revised contract offer on June 27. Under the revised plan, nurses could retain their current health plan coverage through the end of 2019, but after that would have to switch to health plans which now cover most Allina employees.
Allina contends that the health plan change would save the nonprofit health care provider $10 million per year. The nurses have objected to the proposed changes in coverage, which would mean lower premiums but higher deductibles.
On July 6, the MNA proposed a series of three dates – July 15, July 22 and August 5 – to resume negotiations.
Allina spokesman David Kanihan says that the provider only accepted the first two dates because they believe that an agreement can be hammered out in those sessions.
“Our hope is that by the end of the session on the 22nd, we’ll have an agreement,” said Kanihan. “We feel like we should be able to get this done in two sessions.”
A federal mediator will take part in the bargaining sessions.
“We would like a contract,” said MNA spokesman Rick Fuentes. But he added that MNA members are not enthusiastic about Allina’s proposed revision related to the health care plans: “It’s just pushing back the elimination of health care plans until 2019.”
Kanihan noted that Allina’s new proposal is not necessarily a take-it-or-leave-it deal.
“I would not characterize that as any sort of final offer,” said Kanihan. “It was designed to jump-start the conversation.”