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No more standoff between nurses, Allina

For more than a year, nurses at Regina Hospital have been fighting to get a contract they felt was fair. Last Thursday, May 1, they finally came to an agreement with Allina, the hospital’s new owner.

“We are pleased that the three-year contract for registered nurses at Regina Hospital has been ratified,” wrote Regina President Ty Erickson in an emailed statement. “We received notice on Friday, May 2, after the contract ratification vote on Thursday, May 1, by (Minnesota Nurses Association) members at Regina.”

The contract is retroactive to June 2013, when the former contract was originally set to expire. It includes a 4.5 percent wage increase over the course of the contract for 100 nurses represented by MNA. It also includes improved pay for on-call nurses, gives nurses better footing when filing a grievance and adds a 25-year step increase.

The two items that caused the most tension – and ultimately stalled negotiations – were health insurance and Allina’s pension plan. Nurses at the bargaining table wanted more health insurance options than Allina was willing to provide and wanted to be included in the Allina system pension plan, but Allina wouldn’t negotiate on those two items.

“They were not willing to move on it at all,” said Jane Traynor, chair of the Hastings bargaining unit.

Because of the lack of progress, the nurses decided to give up the fight for the pension and health insurance options.

“We decided that it was in the best interest of our patients, the community and our nurse group to settle and move on,” Traynor said.

Those items may be raised again when this new contract expires in 2016. The next Hastings contract negotiations will take place at the same time as the Twin Cities hospitals’ open bargaining, and Traynor is hopeful that will produce a better bargaining position for Hastings nurses.

“I have a hunch we are well positioned to take another run at this with more colleagues at our side,” she said.

Some nurses, like Traynor, are disappointed with the outcome, and still feel that Allina isn’t giving them the same respect as other nurses under the Allina umbrella, since other metro area nurses do have the pension and health insurance benefits Hastings nurses sought.

Others are just thankful the contract has been settled.

“It’s been a long process,” Traynor said. “It’s been hanging over the heads of everyone at the hospital.”

For Allina administrators, contract ratification is a development that will ensure the hospital can continue to focus on its patients.

“We acknowledge that this has been a long process,” Erickson said. “We are grateful to all caregivers and employees at Regina Hospital for continuing to put patients first as we worked through this. Moving forward, all efforts are focused on what our nurses and other caregivers at Regina Hospital do best – provide exceptional care to patients in the Hastings community.”

Throughout the process, nurses have received significant community support, and for that they’re grateful, Traynor said. Some people have put signs of support in their yards, and often patients have expressed support as well.

“We appreciate all the community support we’ve received,” she said.