Nearly 5,000 Allina Health nurses voted Monday to remain on strike after rejecting a new contract proposal that would have ended a monthlong strike.
The vote comes after union nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, part of National Nurses United, rejected the Minnesota-based health system's proposed contract in late August and began striking on Labor Day.
As of now, 597 Allina nurses have already returned to work.
The strike represents nurses at five Allina hospitals in Minnesota: Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Phillips Eye Institute, both in Minneapolis; Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids; Unity Hospital in Fridley; and United Hospital in St. Paul.
The 13-hospital system and union nurses have been negotiating new contracts since February. Contracts expired in May without a new deal and the nurses have rejected two proposals over the summer, the first leading to an initial weeklong strike in June that cost Allina $20.4 million in temporary labor charges and other costs. The latest strike has now lasted 28 days.
In the two previous votes, the Minnesota Nurses Association advised nurses to reject the health system's offers, but this time made no recommendation to its 4,800 members.
“We spent more than 39 hours negotiating over three days and it became clear that Allina Health is unwilling to make any further movement without additional concessions from MNA,” the union said in a document posted to its website on Monday. “Therefore, your MNA Negotiations Team made the difficult decision to take this contract offer to you for a vote, and is unable to make a recommendation on this proposal, mainly because the exchange for agreeing to the transition of the MNA plans did not provide any substantial value to MNA nurses.”
In a prepared statement, an Allina Health spokesman said the health system has made “a fair proposal that offers nurses more financial security and provides a transition to a stable and high-quality insurance plan that they can depend on in the future.”
A key issue is Allina's proposal to transition union nurses to health plans with lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket spending. The nurses, however, want to keep their 20-year-old nurse-only plan that features higher premiums and little cost-sharing.
Under the proposed three-year contract, the nurses would move over time to the same plans other Allina employees are offered. Among the options is the Allina First plan—the health system's most popular “core” plan with a $300 deductible, lower premiums and a $3,500 out-of-pocket maximum. Depending on the plan, Allina would make health reimbursement arrangement or health savings account contributions of $700 in 2017 and $300 in 2018 for nurses who transition to a company health plan in the next two years.
The union spokesman said the Allina health plans have much less coverage and higher deductibles and out-of-pocket spending than the nurses currently have, adding that the HRA and HSA contributions “don't come close to matching what nurses could be losing out-of-pocket” in a major event.
Though union plans would be protected under the proposed contract through 2019, union plan members would pay the majority of the premium increases in the last years of the plans, according to the union.
Nurses who enroll in Allina's core plans would receive specified employer premium contributions of 75% to 85%, which the union plan members do not currently have. Nurses would also be protected from the cost of a future “Cadillac” tax, an excise tax on the portion of group health plan premiums that exceed $10,200 for single coverage and $27,500 for family coverage going into effect in 2020. The proposal also includes protection against future decreases in health benefits.