I realize I have been sending quite a bit of information recently, and I do so because it is important for stakeholders to be updated on Allina Health’s perspective on negotiations. The following message was sent to all Allina Health employees and I’m sharing with you as a valued partner. Please get in touch with any questions.
It can be difficult to follow how issues are progressing in the negotiations between Allina Health and the nurses’ union, particularly because public statements can focus more on rhetoric than actual progress. Misleading statements from the union’s bargaining team in media interviews, and in their own press conference video, are making it appear that negotiations are stalled on issues that have actually been resolved.
Employees deserve to have accurate information about what transpired during last week’s negotiations and how Allina Health and the union’s teams actually came together on all but a few details on the health insurance transition.
- An agreement was reached in principle on staffing and security issues during last week’s session. MNA spokespeople have continued to use staffing as one of the public rallying points with union members. However, MNA was willing to accept Allina’s last proposal on staffing (charge nurses), and the MNA’s own Sept. 30 Bargaining Update included the Charge Nurse Assignment Committee and Workplace Safety changes as two of the accomplishments of their negotiations.
- There continue to be differences of opinion in the areas of the transition to new health insurance plans:
- MNA wants a ratification bonus. Allina Health believes that bonuses tied to a health plan transition and retention are more appropriate.
- MNA opposes any cost sharing measures on their nurse-only plans. Because of the escalating costs of the nurse-only plans, Allina Health wants a cap on the premium contributions for 2019 – the last year of these plans. In that year, Allina Health would pay 103 percent of its contribution for 2018.
- MNA wants to restrict Allina Health’s ability to change the Allina First insurance plan after the end of the current contract. We believe that is an unrealistic request that will (once again) create an unsustainable insurance plan. However, in addition to agreeing to make no changes through 2019, Allina Health agreed to limit our ability to make changes to the First plan thereafter.
MNA has also continued their rhetoric about the core health plans, the same plans that one in six MNA members already use. In media statements, the union calls them “high deductible plans,” when in truth the most popular core plan offers a $300 deductible. MNA leadership has also used absurd statements to incite fear among our nurses, such as “it costs $12,000 to have a baby,” so their members feel an imperative to continue the strike.
Our nurses are being pressured by union leadership to remain off the job, forgo salary and pay COBRA health insurance rates. Given this, we wish they would receive an honest assessment of the issues from their union leadership.
Looking ahead, we hope to be back at the negotiations table in the near future. However, our most recent negotiation sessions began with a huge step backwards by the union negotiating team. For a day and a half, we exchanged positions through the federal mediator in an attempt to return to the place where discussions had left off on the morning of Sept. 3. Valuable time and energy was wasted rehashing issues, and the union’s barriers to the process demonstrated a lack of respect not just for the nurses losing income each day they are walking the picket line, but also for the thousands of other employees affected each day this costly and unnecessary strike continues.
It is difficult to reach an agreement when we can’t rely on both sides to acknowledge the progress we have made together, and when union’s public statements contradict what is happening behind closed doors. Allina Health continues to seek a solution that is negotiated in good faith, representing a collaboration between our organization and our nurses. We are hopeful that the days of fiery, inaccurate rhetoric will soon be behind us, so we can finish these contract negotiations and bring our nurses back to work.