Nurses at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth have filed notice that they intend to hold a one-day strike on Oct. 3 if a new contract cannot be reached in upcoming negotiations.
The nurses have been negotiating with the hospital since May 15, with the terms of their most recent employment contract expiring on June 30. The parties will return to the bargaining table on Friday.
"The nurses' bargaining team has been meeting with hospital management for four months already," said Pete Boyechko, a St. Luke's nurse and member of the union's negotiating team. "We've made it very clear. St. Luke's needs to offer competitive wages and benefits to recruit and retain enough nurses for safe patient care."
MNA also has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board, the union said in a news release Monday. They allege the hospital has been removing union literature from the workplace, preventing members from attending union meetings, prohibiting discussions about their contract from the nurse's station area and intimidating nurses who were discussing their contract.
"We hope to come to a fair agreement," Boyechko said. "Nobody wants to go on strike, but we already have a staffing crisis at St. Luke's. Nurses will do what we have to do to ensure St. Luke's holds on to its nurses who deliver top-notch patient care every single day and night."
In a statement, St. Luke's CEO Kevin Nokels did not address the unfair labor practices complaint. As he has before, Nokels argued that the contract offered to nurses was "fair and safe" — providing wage increases matching those at local and metro hospitals, extra shift bonuses, extra pay for nurse mentors and student loan reimbursement.
He warned that covering for a one-day strike would have consequences.
It set in motion "contingency plans ... to maintain continuity of care by bringing in replacement nurses to care for pour patients," Nokels said. "The high, non-recoverable costs of these contingency plans will likely force St. Luke's to fundamentally reconsider, and possibly reduce, the breadth of services we provide."
He noted that St. Luke's and the MNA will return to the bargaining table on Friday.
The nurses are required to provide a 10-day notice before striking, but set the date further out in order to facilitate additional negotiations. If a deal is not reached by 7 a.m. Oct. 3, the union said, nurses will go on strike and picket the hospital.