The state and the Minnesota Nurses Association are expected to select an arbitrator June 18 to resolve a lingering contract dispute affecting 800 registered nurses who work in the department of health, in state prisons and in regional treatment centers. The arbitrator will decide 11 issues of contention, including pay raises, whether nurses can be disciplined for refusing mandatory overtime, and whether nurses can insist on 12 hours off between shifts and having Friday nights off when they are also scheduled to have the rest of the weekend off.
The state's proposals are getting further and further from industry norms, said Linda Lange, business agent for the nurses. "It's a sorry state of affairs," she said. The state is still insisting on a two-year wage freeze, even though nurses in the private sector are receiving annual raises of 4-5 percent.
The state's nurses are one of the 10 largest bargaining units, she said, but rank in the bottom 10 for starting wages "and not much higher for top pay." The other issues, she said, "are quality of life issues that affect quality of care. Nurses need to be well-rested." The nurses' previous contract expired June 30, 2003.