Nurses OK contract with SMDC
After more than two years of negotiation, nurses at St. Mary's Medical Center and Miller-Dwan Hospital voted this week to ratify a new contract. The more than 900 nurses who had been working under a contract that expired on July 1, 2005, voted Tu...
After more than two years of negotiation, nurses at St. Mary's Medical Center and Miller-Dwan Hospital voted this week to ratify a new contract.
The more than 900 nurses who had been working under a contract that expired on July 1, 2005, voted Tuesday to approve the new contract by a comfortable margin, according to Lynette Swanberg, a staff specialist with the Minnesota Nurses Association and a lead negotiator for the union.
Under the new contract, the nurses will be given a 4 percent salary increase in both 2005 and 2006 and will receive back pay and bonuses retroactive to July 2005.
Swanberg said that while most nurses were pleased with the contract, concessions had to be made, such as paying a higher premium for family health insurance.
"There were some things that weren't as palatable," she said.
Both sides said the lengthy negotiations weren't due to adversarial contract disputes, but to combining the contracts of three bargaining units into one.
To assist in that process, the sides chose to enter into interest-based bargaining, a technique that Jerry Zanko, SMDC's manager of employee and labor relations, said leads to more congenial relations between the two parties -- but also takes far longer than typical negotiations.
"It just took a lot of time to merge the three contracts into one," Zanko said.
"We had our moments where certainly it didn't seem like the interest-based bargaining process anymore," Swanberg said. "But by and large, we were quite good at following the process."
The two sides won't have long to rest before returning to the bargaining table. With the new contract expiring on June 30, 2007, Zanko said he expects negotiations to begin sometime around March.
This time, he expects the process to go much faster.
"There should be very little controversy and [contract] language to deal with," he said.
BRANDON STAHL covers health. He can be reached at (218) 720-4154 or by e-mail at email@example.com .