St. Luke’s, MNA fail to reach contract agreement; strike vote scheduled for Thursday

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DULUTH, MN — A strike vote for St. Luke’s nurses has been scheduled for Thursday, September 12th.

This comes after the bargaining team for St. Luke’s nurses and hospital management did not come to a contract agreement at Wednesday evenings meeting.

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) says the hospital has failed to provide an offer that will bring nurses to the hospital, retain current nurses, and provide safe staffing on every shift.

Pete Boycheko a nurse at St. Lukes and is part of the bargaining team says, “We worked, we tried, we guided and at the end of the morning in the wee hour’s management just has still not shown that they are willing to put out a contract that will meet those goals.”

St. Luke’s most recent proposal would keep PTO for new nurses, grant supervisors control of
whether to call in nurses for an emergency, and make the Extra Shift bonus temporary.

The vote to strike comes after nurses from Essentia and St. Lukes held picketing events last month.

Meanwhile, Essentia nurses recently ratified a tentative three-year contract with their hospital, which includes:

  • Workplace violence protections that compensate injured nurses before worker’s compensation takes effect
  • Student loan reimbursement of $2,400 total for a two-year degree and $3,600 total for a four-year RN
  • Extra emergency department pay to ensure staffing is meeting patient demand
  • Wages equal to what Twin Cities’ nurses won in their recent contract agreement

Boycheko says, “Even if we get the authorization we are still willing to go back to the table because we want to have a contract that is safe for our patients and good for our nurses.”

Nurses say they hope to come to an agreement so they can get back to caring for their patients.

If approved, the strike would authorize the bargaining team to call for an Unfair Labor Practices strike.

If nurses vote yes on a strike they must give ten days’ notice to the hospital before the strike happens.

St. Luke’s President & CEO Kevin Nokels released a statement saying,

Since May, St. Luke’s has been negotiating with MNA regarding a new collective bargaining agreement. Our nurses are valued, talented, compassionate members of the care team. The goal throughout this entire negotiation process has been to achieve a fair contract. The most recent negotiation session ended early this morning with no agreement in place.

St. Luke’s continues to provide competitive wages, overtime pay, bonuses, generous time-off benefits, holiday pay and a full package of benefits. Thus far in our negotiations, both sides have agreed on many non-economic issues. So, recent talks focused on remaining compensation issues. St. Luke’s latest economic proposal includes the following:

Wage increases equal to that of both other local and metro-area nurses – St. Luke’s offered increases of 3%, 3%, and 2.25% for each of the three years of the contract. These increases match the recent Essentia contract and metro-area contract wage increases.

Extra shift bonuses – St. Luke’s offered an additional $10/hour for nurses who take on extra shifts.

Higher pay for our nurse mentors – St. Luke’s proposed additional pay for nurses who train newly hired staff.

Student loan reimbursement – This is a new benefit.

To be competitive in attracting and retaining talent, St. Luke’s compares its compensation with industry- and region-specific compensation data and benchmark against other local and regional hospitals and care centers, as well as internally to ensure that pay rates are consistent across similar nursing roles, training, skills and experience levels. By these measures, St. Luke’s nurses are well paid.

Per the most recently published CMS Wage Index Public Use File, the average hourly wage rate for a St. Luke’s RN is higher than the following regional hospitals: Fairview Range Regional Health, Essentia Health Virginia, and St. Mary’s Medical Center/SMDC Medical Center.

St. Luke’s also prioritizes maintaining safe and appropriate staffing levels. Nursing unit staffing per patient has increased 8.4% in 2019 over 2018 levels.

St. Luke’s has made, by any reasonable measure, a fair contract proposal. We are committed to constructive talks, solution-seeking and transparency. We are hopeful that MNA will return to the negotiations table and that we will be able to come to a fair agreement.

Voting will continue until 10 p.m. tonight.

Emma Quinn

Emma Quinn

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