Questions Remain to be Answered Before Agreement Can be Reached
Contact: Rick Fuentes
Minneapolis – June 25, 2016 – Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association report strong attendance on the picket lines around Allina Health hospitals during the week-long strike, which they say indicates a coming together of nurses at all the hospitals. They also said, however, that seven days of no information from Allina Health CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler has left them feeling farther apart from the company and less optimistic about an agreement.
“Each day, we’ve had about 2,000 nurses picketing outside Allina hospitals,” said Angie Becchetti, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. “We’re strong. We’re together. One thing that’s brought us together as MNA nurses is our shared frustration over what Allina’s people have said and not said.”
Negotiations between MNA and Allina started February 10, but Dr. Wheeler has never appeared at the negotiations table. Nurses have repeatedly asked the Allina CEO to come outside during the strike and have a conversation about the outstanding issues in the contract, including health insurance plans, staffing, and preventing workplace violence. Nurses extended the invitation to Allina Board Chairman John Church as well. No one from Allina has responded to the offer.
“We’re here because Allina won’t talk about our proposals and won’t give us the information we need to address their proposals,” Becchetti said. “They’re just not talking, even though we’ve heard they’re holding press conferences every day. They’ve told the reporters things they won’t tell the nurses. That’s not fair negotiations.”
Nurses issued a list of questions that still need answers from Dr. Wheeler and Allina negotiators, including:
- What costs in the nurses’ health plans are causing you to say that they are unsustainable? Is it procedures? Medications? Size of the network?
- How much does Allina pay in administrative costs for the MNA plans? How is the money nurses already pay for administrative costs split between Allina and Blue Cross?
- How much do other employee groups pay in premiums for the Allina plans? Is it the same as the plans you’re offering to nurses? Do some pay less? Do some pay more?
- What staffing tools are you planning to implement? How do those tools make use of the nurses’ professional judgment to ask for more staffing?
- How would the $10 million Allina saves on insurance plans be used to improve patient care?
- Why did Allina, a not-for-profit hospital company, invest $108 million in a for-profit tech company called Health Catalyst? How much money will Allina stand to make when Health Catalyst goes public next year? How is this relationship related to Dr. Penny Wheeler sitting on the board of Health Catalyst?
- When will Allina return to the bargaining table willing to talk about the outstanding issues of staffing and workplace violence? Why are the negotiators so stubborn that we talk about insurance first?
- Why is it necessary to spend $100 million on the re-organization of Mercy and Unity hospitals? What is this money for? Will this merger save Allina money?
- When can we see the inspection reports from the Minnesota Department of Health? How can you claim patients are getting good care if those aren’t available?
- Will you call back all the nurses who are on strike? Will some of the nurses have to wait until after July 1 to go back to work?
“Dr. Wheeler, if you really want to bargain with us, then it’s only fair that we have these questions answered,” Becchetti said. “You’ve had seven days to say something to bring us back to the table. We’re right across the street, and we haven’t heard anything.”
Nurses are engaging in an Unfair Labor Practice Strike that began at 7 a.m. Sunday, June 19. MNA has filed numerous ULPs against Allina Health in part for failing to provide information nurses need to negotiate and for failing to bargain on non-economic issues in the contract.