A looming nurses' strike appeared to be averted Saturday after a contract agreement with St. Luke's hospital came together overnight.
The Minnesota Nurses Association and hospital administration came to terms on a new three-year deal after a 17-hour negotiating session, according to union representatives. MNA nurses will vote to ratify the agreement Wednesday.
"Nurses are pleased this agreement addresses the staffing crisis and ensures there are enough nurses to care for patients safely," MNA officials said in a statement. "The tentative agreement stipulates nurses will be paid short-staffing bonuses if they are called in when the hospital cannot keep up with the number of patients or the severity of patient conditions. St. Luke's nurses also won the same workplace violence measures that MNA nurses in the Twin Cities agreed to in their contracts this past June."
Hospital administrators confirmed the agreement.
"St. Luke’s has worked in good faith toward the goal of achieving a contract that is fair to our valued nurses and helps preserve St. Luke’s future as an independent health care system," said Kevin Nokels, president and CEO. "We are confident that the MNA membership will vote to ratify the proposed contract so we can move forward together as one care team to provide our patients and communities with outstanding care."
St. Luke's nurses have been earning less than their counterparts at Essentia Health, the union said, but the new contract would bring their salaries in line next year. The agreement calls for wage increases of 3%, 3.8% and 2.25%, respectively, over the next three years.
With the tentative agreement in place, MNA will rescind its notice of intent to hold a one-day strike on Oct. 3. Nurses had authorized the strike after four months of negotiations had failed to produce an agreement. The union also filed claims of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.
The nurses have continued to work under the terms of their previous contract, which expired June 30.
Throughout negotiations, nurses had expressed concerns about a staffing crisis at St. Luke's, and stressed a need to better recruit and retain nurses. Nokels had previously said proposed wage increases matched those at local and metro hospitals in a contract offer which also included extra shift bonuses, extra pay for nurse mentors and student loan reimbursement.
The agreement was first reported by WDIO-TV, a media partner with the News Tribune.