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Nurses union, Sanford strike tentative deal

BEMIDJI -- After little more than a month of negotiation, representatives from the Minnesota Nurses Association and Sanford Bemidji say they’ve tentatively agreed to the terms of a new contract.

Mary Scattarelli, an MNA labor relations specialist, said hospital management and the union agreed to the new deal Friday, and the contract does not include language linking nurses’ pay to patient satisfaction scores.

Union members told the Pioneer earlier this week that they were flatly opposed to the raises-to-scores connection, which they characterized as an out-of-the-ordinary measure that linked nurses’ compensation to factors that are largely out of their control. The two sides were otherwise close to an agreement, Scattarelli said then and emphasized again Friday.

The new agreement does include a “letter of understanding” that the nurses and hospital will work to improve satisfaction scores, Scattarelli added. The scores are measured by a patient satisfaction survey that, Sanford staff said, is randomly administered to patients there.

“We feel it’s fair to all involved,” Brian Mathews, the hospital’s senior director of human resources, said in a statement. Mathews was reportedly on the team of hospital representatives who negotiated the new contract. “We appreciate the hard and important work our nurses do for our patients each day.”

Contracts between the union and hospital typically last three years, and it’s not uncommon for negotiations to extend beyond a contract’s expiration date. If and when a new one is signed, it is then made retroactive to the end of the previous contract. Each of Sanford’s locations in Minnesota has a different contract with MNA.

The nurses are scheduled to vote to ratify the contract later this month. The hospital and union’s old contract expired in late February.

“It was limited scope,” Scattarelli said of this round of negotiations, which was several months shorter than the 2014 contract talks that produced the old agreement. “So both sides looked at narrowing down some priority issues, and I think the relationship has improved over time...I think that both sides are satisfied with how those issues turned out.”

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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