Strike likely as contract talks break down at HealthPartners

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Talks between HealthPartners and the union representing 1,500 clinic workers have broken down with no further negotiations set, making a two-day strike likely, both the union and company said.
“After more than two months of negotiating, HealthPartners management failed to address the safe staffing concerns of more than 1,500 registered nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, lab techs, physicians assistants, nurse midwives, and other caregivers at 29 metro area HealthPartners clinics,” SEIU Healthcare Minnesota said in a news release issued Friday.

“We need a real voice in patient care and safe staffing levels,” said Kate Lynch, a Licensed Practical Nurse at HealthPartners Arden Hills Clinic. “We owe it to our patients to take a stand to ensure we are providing the best possible care. Ignoring the voice of caregivers will not lead to the best patient outcomes.”

“HealthPartners should be leading the charge for improved collaboration with frontline caregivers, not blocking it,” said Jean Pfarr, a Registered Nurse at HealthPartners Specialty Center in St. Paul & HealthPartners Como Clinic also in St. Paul.

Members of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota negotiating team have presented HealthPartners with a safe staffing proposal that would establish a Patient Care committee with representation from frontline caregivers and management, the union said. To ensure the concerns are addressed and not set aside, any issue that cannot be resolved by the committee will be submitted to a mutually agreed upon third party arbitrator for resolution.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota will take part in a two-day strike on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and Thursday, Feb. 14, unless an agreement is reached.

In a news release, HealthPartners management also acknowledged the breakdown in bargaining and pledged to continue operations if there is a walkout.

The company said its offer to SEIU includes 3 percent wage increases in each year of the three-year contract; fully-paid individual health care coverage and family coverage at current cost-sharing levels; and creation of a joint labor/management education training fund.

“HealthPartners remains committed to working with SEIU to reach an agreement that is fair and reasonable,” the company said.

The collective bargaining agreement between SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members and HealthPartners expired Jan. 31.