What is the cost of replacing striking Allina nurses?

Striking nurses at Minneapolis-based Allina Health are paid substantially less than the 1,500 nurses recruited to fill in for them, reports Pioneer Press.

Allina nurses, represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, began their second strike of the summer on Labor Day at five Minnesota hospitals — Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley. As workers began the open-ended strike, Allina brought in 1,500 replacement nurses.

Huffmaster and HealthSource Global Staffing, two primary staffing agencies, offered the replacements $70.50 to $75 per hour to work at Allina’s hospitals, according to the article, which cites the agencies’ websites. Additionally, the agencies cover the replacement nurses’ accommodations and travel expenses.

The striking nurses, however, are paid between $31.27 and $48.15 an hour, with an average full-time Allina nurse salary of $87,298 a year, before bonuses or overtime, Allina has said, according to Pioneer Press.

Allina could not verify to the publication the exact amount the replacement nurses are being paid, and representatives from the staffing agencies did not respond to the publication’s requests for comment.

But David Kanihan, vice president of marketing and communications at Allina, said in an email to Becker’s Hospital Review that caring for patients is Allina’s top priority. “When the union walked off the job, we still had the responsibility to continue providing care. And that is what we’ve done. Striking was the union’s choice — not ours.”

Union spokesman Rick Fuentes told Pioneer Press Wednesday, “The nurses (are) angry at Allina’s use of its resources to replace them rather than invest in them.”

A key issue in the dispute between Allina and its 4,800 union nurses has been the nurses’ health insurance. Allina wanted to eliminate the nurses’ four union-backed health plans, which include high premiums but low or no deductibles, and move the nurses to its corporate plans, reports the Star Tribune. Allina has estimated that eliminating the nurses’ four union-backed health plans would save the health system $10 million per year.

The latest strike is the second since an initial seven-day strike in June. The June strike cost Allina $20.4 million.

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