Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center in Indiana, Pa. are planning a 24-hour strike starting at 7 a.m. Monday.
The nurses' previous contract expired on Oct. 31. Hospital administration and registered nurses have been negotating a new contract since August, but are now at an impasse.
The union said it is willing to compromise by having nurses take on a greater share of health care costs, but that the medical center continues to make “draconian demands,” which would essentially make nurses at-will employees. The union said the hospital wants to reduce paid time off, give nurses less control over scheduling, and significantly increase nurses' contributions to their health insurance premiums.
“I've had a lot of nurses come crying to me, because they said that they just can’t afford the proposed health care increases, with all the other cuts,” said pediatric charge nurse and union president Kathy Wolfe.
The medical center said the nurses’ current compensation is unsustainable and much higher compared to other hospitals. That makes the medical center an outlier, according to chief growth officer Mark Richards.
“We’re not trying to get to the back end of the line [in compensation]. We're just trying to get more toward the middle and still remain competitive,” Richards said. “We have good nurses and we want them to be compensated well, and we want them to be happy. But you know, it has to be something that's equitable for both sides.”
Neither party would provide a copy of the hospital's most recent proposal, saying they did not want to negotiate through the media. Wolfe and Richards' descriptions of this offer differed in the amount of paid leave it allowed, how much employee contributions would go up and whether scheduling protocols would be affected.
Two years ago, the union threatened to strike on Dec. 23. That was called off when nurses and the hospital reached a tentative deal.