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Nurses strike not imminent

April 7, 2008
Sean Harkins
A strike of the nurses at Alpena Regional Medical Center will not happen in the immediate future, members of the Michigan Nurses Association Executive Council said on Monday.

The union will be voting on the final contract offer from Alpena Regional Medical Center on Thursday and Friday.

“We’re not talking about strike with our people,” said Amy Pfeifer-Twite, MNA president at ARMC and executive committee member.

The executive council handles negotiations for the union and is comprised up of registered nurses in the union.

Committee members said if the union votes down the contract the matter will go to a fact finder and the union will continue to work without a contract. Its previous contract expired Feb. 23.

The fact-finding process could take up to six months, and the union already applied to have it done when ARMC made its final offer, committee member Deb Naylor said.

Committee member Joan Prentice said they are expecting the union to vote down the contract because many members believe the negotiations were not done in good faith.

“We know what their vote is going to be. We already know,” she said.

In a press release, ARMC Chief Human Resources Officer Diane Shields said a vote in favor of the contract is good for all parties.

“We hope ARMC nurses determine a ‘yes’ vote is in the best interest of all involved — patients and their families, the community and, of course, themselves,” she said.

The release went on to state ARMC is looking forward to presenting its case to the fact finder.

Health insurance premiums have been a major point of contention between the sides, and committee members said they aren’t being heard on health and safety issues.

Prentice said nurses often are injured moving patients, and lift equipment is needed.

Pfeifer-Twite said while lift equipment was recently purchased, nurses still believe they aren’t be listened to regarding safety issues.

“It’s a Band Aid effect,” she said. “It’s been reactive.”

The committee members said ARMC is asking the union members to pay a percentage of their health insurance premiums but they would prefer to pay a flat rate.

Naylor said the contract would lock in a wage for the nurses, but insurance costs could fluctuate greatly.

Both the union and ARMC say their proposed contracts favorably compare to other hospitals in Michigan.

“Even after the proposed changes take effect — if the nurses agree to accept them — ARMC nurses will have among the state’s most competitive compensation,” Shields said.

Committee members also question why they are being asked to pay a percentage of their insurance costs when two other unions in the hospital, United Steelworkers 204 and 206, recently approved contracts in which they pay a flat rate for coverage.

Shields said those contracts and the one MNA is proposing are not comparable.

“Each agreement kind of stands alone,” she said. “The proposal that MNA gave to us was not the same or close to what the steelworkers took.”

Sean Harkins can be reached via e-mail at sharkins@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.
 
 

 

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