Virginia Nurses want New Contract Proposal from Essentia

Posted at: 10/25/2013 6:29 PM
Updated at: 10/25/2013 9:48 PM
By: Alan Hoglund

Iron Range nurses are going public with their concerns about a contract proposal from Essentia Health. Nurses at Essentia Health-Virginia have been working under an expired contract since July, and told Eyewitness News that the negotiations are slow.

Denise Armstrong, a registered nurse and member of the negotiating committee, was one of more than 50 nurses and supporters marching in an informational picket outside the hospital Friday.

Armstrong said the insurance plans under the contract will cost them more out-of-pocket. She said Essentia wants to take back a holiday and sick time retirement benefits. "If you have a good contract and a solid contract at a hospital, that attracts and retains quality nurses. That's what we want is good nurses to take good care of the patients."

According to JoAnn Miklovich, another registered nurse and negotiating committee member, "nurses won't stay and work in this facility with the benefits and packages that they are offering."

Represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) more than 100 registered nurses work at the hospital. According to Essentia Spokesperson Kim Kaiser, it officially integrated with Essentia in January. She said Essentia is trying to align employee benefits as closely as possible with the rest of the organization.

According to Kaiser, "Essentia Health is offering nurses benefits that are are equal to the maximum retirement benefits available to any of our employees...we are offering an opportunity to be on health plans currently in use by some 3,000 other Essentia Health employees."

Negotiations continue Monday. Kaiser said a federal mediator will be there.

The nurses are hoping Essentia brings a better proposal to the table. While they say they don't want to strike, but said they will if they feel they must.