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Minnesota Nurses union reaches deal with St. Luke’s

Duluth News Tribune, 4/12/13

The Minnesota Nurses Association announced late Tuesday that Duluth nurses came to a tentative contract agreement with St. Luke’s hospital that would raise wages 4.5 percent. The three-year agreement would go into effect in July and run into June 2016.

By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune

The Minnesota Nurses Association announced late Tuesday that Duluth nurses came to a tentative contract agreement with St. Luke’s hospital that would raise wages 4.5 percent. The three-year agreement would go into effect in July and run into June 2016.

The deal affects 460 nurses, the association said.

“I don’t think they wanted to go through what we went through in the last negotiating session,” said Kate Donovan, a registered nurse and bargaining team member. “It was long and hard and it was upsetting to management.”

A call late Tuesday to a St. Luke’s spokeswoman was not returned by press time.

The agreement in 2010 wasn’t reached until two months after the contract ended under the threat of a one-day strike. That contract called for no wage increases the first year, 1 percent the second and 2 percent the third year. The hospital also increased its contributions to nurses’ health plans.

The biggest issue in 2010 was staffing. The eventually approved contract established procedures for temporarily closing units to patient admissions or transfers when nurses believed they were unable to adequately care for patients. It was similar to language Twin Cities nurses won in their contracts earlier in 2010.

As with their counterparts at SMDC Health System (now Essentia), St. Luke’s nurses had authorized a one-day strike if a contract agreement wasn’t reached.

The nurses association said the bargaining team is recommending that members approve the contract presented Tuesday. It was agreed that the negotiations would be about wages only so the gains made in 2010 would remain intact.

St. Luke’s nurses must ratify the agreement by voting April 17 at United Baptist Church in Duluth from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Nurses at Essentia joined St. Luke’s nurses Tuesday for a solidarity event welcoming hospital negotiators.

Essentia nurses are expected to begin negotiating their contract later this spring. Its current contract also expires June 30.

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