U of I Hospital nurses return to work with no deal following week-long strike

ByABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Sunday, September 20, 2020
U of I Hospital nurses return to work with no deal
University of Illinois hospital nurses returned to work without a new deal, following a week-long strike.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- University of Illinois hospital nurses returned to work Saturday without a new deal, following a week-long strike.

Nearly 800 nurses walked off the job last Saturday.

Hundreds of SEIU Local 73 members joined them in the strike on Monday.

RELATED: Nurses strike enters 2nd day after more than 800 walk off job at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago

More than 800 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago strike Saturday morning after contract negotiations broke down over nurse-to-patient ratios.

"The two sides were unable to reach an agreement despite extensive contract talks that ran well into the evening each night this week," the Illinois Nurses Association Union said in a release.

Talks are scheduled to resume on Monday, according to the union.

The key issue has been setting a limit on how many patients a single nurse is treating at any one time, while the hospital has said a set nurse to patient ratios do not work.

In a past statement, Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital, said he "values and respects" these nurses' work but argues ratios "...ignore fair workload distribution among peers on a shift-to-shift basis. Nurse staffing ratios also result in longer Emergency Department (ED) wait times, increased ambulance diversion hours, reduced patient services and higher operating costs."

"We have made progress on a number of important fronts, from wages and staffing to essential safety issues like improved PPE," said Doris Carroll, RN, president of INA.

Caroll said the hospital improved its wage offering from a wage freeze a week ago to now offering small increases over the span of the four-year contract.

The hospital also agreed to hire more than 200 nurses to improve the staffing ratio, as well as provide more PPE for nurses, according to the union.

Around 1,300 nurses originally planned to walk off the job, but a judge granted a temporary restraining order limiting that number after the hospital filed a lawsuit citing patient safety concerns.

More than 4,000 SEIU Local 73 members across Illinois have been without a contract for a year.

Rev. Jesse Jackson marches with striking Univesity of Illinois nurses Tuesday morning.

The hospital staff is made up of various positions negotiating their own contract. The local 73 sticking points are better, pay, more PPE, and better staffing.

"These workers showed up time and time again through the pandemic when Chicago was basically closed and these workers came to," said Dian Palmer, president of SEIU Local 73.

"Working in the ER I do not know what is going to come in that door and they send me out or us out there in simple masks," said Daniel Culliver-Dodd, an EMT at UIC ER. "We need proper PPE."

Full statement from Zenn on the SEIU strike.

"We are disappointed that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 -- with four bargaining units representing 4,000 Clerical, Technical, Service & Maintenance, and Professional employees across the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus and at UI Health -- has announced a strike starting Monday, September 14.

"SEIU Local 73 represents 183 job titles at UIC, ranging from accountants, parking services agents and cashiers to lab animal caretakers, emergency medical technicians and physical therapists across the Chicago campus and at UI Health, as well as the regional campuses, and UIC Specialized Care for Children.

"We have been negotiating to reach fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract agreements with the four separate units for many months (ranging from ten months to over 14 months depending on the contract date). In March, SEIU requested a bargaining hiatus due to COVID-19; at UIC's urging, we resumed negotiations in May. Since early summer, we have met multiple times with each unit, including lengthy negotiations with each this week. Despite good progress, and many bargaining sessions under the guidance of a federal mediator, we were not able to reach an agreement with the SEIU.

"To date, we have reached tentative agreement on almost all non-economic issues, and it has only been in recent weeks that the parties began to discuss economic proposals in earnest. UIC has proposed that salary increases for SEIU employees align with the campus wage program (announced annually by the University President for non-union employees), plus existing annual "step" salary increases for all bargaining units except Professional; these annual increases generally exceed the rate of inflation. There is guaranteed money for each member for each year of the contract, despite the challenging economic realities laid bare by the COVID pandemic. Our fair and reasonable offers are summarized here: https://seiunegotiations.uic.edu/

"We greatly value and respect our SEIU colleagues and the critical roles they play in our campus community, which is why we have worked hard to seek a fair and fiscally sound agreement. It was important to us to retain and pay all staff throughout the pandemic, even those whose roles were partially or fully diminished while some routine operations were suspended.

The video featured is from a previous report