- After months of contentious negotiations and a week-long strike, nurses at University of Illinois hospital in Chicago reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract Wednesday.
- Under the new agreement, UIC will hire 160 nurses to alleviate staffing concerns, a key issue that led to the strike. The new contract also includes guarantees of a rolling 90-day supply of personal protective equipment, universal N95 masking and small wage increases.
- Before it's official, a majority of the 1,400 nurses represented by the Illinois Nurses Association must vote to ratify the new contract. The union said voting will take place Monday through Wednesday, and results will be announced Oct. 1.
Issues like pay and staffing have always been a priority among nurses unions. The extent to which COVID-19 is exacerbating those concerns is unclear, but the pandemic is certainly bringing issues to the bargaining table.
Beyond PPE supply guarantees, the new contract between nurses and UIC features a redesigning of the hospital's airflow system, including the addition of a new negative pressure wing, and constructing new windows with portable HEPA filters to turn any room into a negative pressure one, according to INA.
UIC nurses will also get hazard pay for working during pandemics under the new agreement.
The union and hospital struck the deal Wednesday following just less than four months of negotiations and 29 collective bargaining sessions, according to a statement from UIC Hospital CEO Michael Zenn.
The agreement now includes wage increases of 1%, 1.5%, 1.75% and 2%, over the next four years for nurses, an INA spokesperson said in an email statement.
But the biggest win for the union was staffing levels. UIC nurses went on strike for a week starting Sept. 12 following a breakdown in negotiations, but not all were allowed to participate in the work stoppage.
A judge granted a temporary restraining order filed by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees forbidding nurses in certain critical care units from going on strike. About 525 nurses out of 1,400 represented by INA were barred from striking, according to INA.
Nurses returned to work a week later with no new contract, but several bargaining sessions got the hospital to agree to hire more than 200 additional nurses.
The tentative agreement reached Wednesday stipulates the hiring of at least 160 additional nurses.
Just a few days after nurses went on strike at UIC Hospital, so did 4,000 clerical, professional, technical, service and maintenance workers represented by Service Employees International Union 73.
Those workers also struck a deal with the university Wednesday, ending their 10-day strike among four bargaining units with new tentative agreements, though details of the terms are unclear.