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Regina nurses unite for better contract deal, will hold vigil Monday

Nurses at Regina Medical Center are fighting for a better contract from the facility’s new owner.

Since April, negotiators from the nurses’ union have been trying to work out a contract deal with Allina, which finalized its purchase of the Regina hospital in September. So far, the two sides haven’t been able to resolve all the issues.

The key issues involve Allina’s insurance and pension programs. Jan Rabbers of the Minnesota Nurses Association, which is an affiliate of National Nurses United, said that Allina has included nurses from other hospital purchases into its pension program, but that Regina nurses are being denied that benefit. She also said that Allina is not offering the same kind of insurance other nurses within the Allina fold receive.

For the nurses, the offer Allina is making is “second-rate” and calls into question Allina’s commitment to serving the community if it’s not committed to taking care of its nurses, said Jane Traynor, MNA negotiator and a Regina RN.

“We are deeply concerned that Allina wants to treat workers in Hastings differently than they do in other parts of the state and that tactic will affect the care we are able to deliver to our neighbors and friends,” she said.

On Tuesday, Dec. 3, nurses from other facilities came to Hastings to show their support for the nurses here. Nurses from North Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital, River Falls Medical Center, Unity Hospital, United Hospital and Abbott Northwestern all turned out in support of their colleagues.

Traynor delivered a petition to Allina negotiators that was signed by three-quarters of the MNA nurses in the bargaining unit at Regina Medical Center. The powerful, clear message was headlined “Because our patients deserve high quality care,” and issued this bottom line: “We, the undersigned, will not accept a contract offer that makes a second-rate commitment to the nursing care our patients deserve. We demand the same commitment to nursing in Hastings that Allina has made with every other MNA contract in the metro area.”

There are 105 RNs at Regina affected by the negotiations. The current contract expires Dec. 31.

Although the nurses don’t have any idea how much longer negotiations will last, Traynor said that the service they provide to patients will continue.

“The nurses at Regina are committed to providing care to their patients,” she said.

If no deal can be made before the current contract expires, nurses have a few options, or there could be an extension of the contract. Regardless, they will continue to work, Traynor said.

“We care deeply about our patients, and we’re concerned about Allina’s commitment to the community.”

The nurses are holding a candlelight vigil and food drive from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, in the parking lot at the corner of Highways 55 and 61 to show their solidarity and their need for a fair contract. Money, food and clothing will be collected for Hastings Family Service. (Note: This week's print edition incorrectly stated the vigil would be at 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at the medical center. The Star Gazette apologizes for the error.)

Representatives from Allina have so far been unavailable for comment.