JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- For the third time since August, nurses at Ascension St. Joseph are taking to the picket line... over unfair labor practices, they said after failing to reach an agreement with the company.
"We don't want to be out here," Ascension St. Joseph nurse Beth Corsetti said. "We want to be in there, taking care of those patients who trust and love us."
This comes after Ascension Healthcare faced a wave of strikes last year across the country.
At St. Joseph, they said they've lost over 300 nurses from chronic understaffing and below market wages.
"In my unit alone, I have to say, the ceiling has literally fallen down on a couple patients," Corsetti said. "We have had to move patients out of their rooms because the ceilings are caving in. They have someone come and just patch it up and patients are back in there. That's just not safe. Not only we don't have enough nurses, they're not investing any money in this hospital as far as infrastructure."
The Illinois Nurses Association bargaining team met with hospital leadership on Monday.
But, Ascension said in a statement in part, "Unfortunately, INA's wage proposal continues to not be aligned with Joliet market rates, and we remain far apart in this space."
"We passed something, they were unwilling to meet that, Ascension St. Joseph nurse
Kaitlynd French said. "We asked to bargain Tuesday, Wednesday, today, Friday. And they simply said they were unavailable."
While it's disappointing, Ascension said they fully plan on staying open for the two-day strike with staff replacements.
Union nurses will be allowed to return back to work next week.
"I've been saying this since August," Illinois Nurses Association chief negotiator John Fitzgerald said. "We are this close, and we are this far. If they talk, if they negotiate, we'll get a deal done. If they bury their head in the sand out and send out press releases that are filled of lies, we'll keep fighting."
"Nurses will be on strike from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday as Ascension sticks to their best and final offer.
Ascension Health released a statement saying, "Although we implemented our last, best and final offer on our RN contract on January 21, 2024, our bargaining team agreed to meet with Illinois Nurses Association (INA) on February 5, 2024, per INA's request.
"Discussions proceeded throughout much of the day. Unfortunately, INA's wage proposal continues to not be aligned with Joliet market rates, and we remain far apart in this space.
"Our best and final offer is a mutually beneficial solution that provides our nurses a fair and equitable contract, and ensures our community continues to receive access to the quality care they expect from Saint Joseph - Joliet. We know that our nurses and their union representatives share the same goal with all of us at Saint Joseph - Joliet-providing safe, quality healthcare to those we are privileged to serve.
"We understand the concern and questions that complex contract negotiations can create for our community and all involved. We urge INA to share a wage proposal with our third-party mediator that appropriately reflects our market.
"In the meantime, Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet is fully prepared to remain open and care for our patients during the short-term INA strike."