Media Statement: Illinois Nurses Association Strike

September 12, 2020

Statement from Michael Zenn, CEO, University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics

The Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the union representing more than 1,400 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital, the state’s only public hospital, announced a seven-day strike beginning Saturday, September 12 at 7 a.m.

We are disappointed that despite progress in this week’s lengthy negotiations, including a 14-hour session on Friday, September 11, we were not able to reach an agreement with the INA.

Over the past three months, UI Health and the INA have participated in more than 20 negotiating sessions, more than half of those under the guidance of federal mediators. When it comes to the top issues that matter to nurses—compensation, staffing, and safety and security—the generous offers summarized here reflect our respect and commitment to supporting our nurses, while recognizing challenging economic realities laid bare by the COVID pandemic.

We believe we have been fair and generous to the INA throughout negotiations and in our last offer, reflecting our respect and commitment to our nursing colleagues.

  • UI Health supports a patient acuity-based staffing model. Our staffing proposal focuses on obtaining the right nurse at the right time to care for each patient, so we can achieve the highest level of safety, quality, service and health outcomes. The INA is demanding one-size-fits-all staffing ratios that are too rigid and remove flexibility. Fixed staffing ratios ignore fair workload distribution among peers on a shift-to-shift basis and result in longer Emergency Department wait times, increased ambulance diversion hours, reduced patient services, and higher operating costs.
  • Our nurses deserve top compensation—and they receive it. On average, UI Health nurses earn over $20,000 a year more in base hourly compensation than their counterparts. Under our last offer, UI Health nurses would remain in the top 10% for pay compared to their peers in Chicago, Illinois and throughout the U.S.

Our nurses are critical to UI Health’s mission of clinical excellence and safe patient care. We are in the midst of a pandemic and maintaining adequate staffing for critical health care functions is even more urgent in these times. While we fully respect our nurses’ right to strike, we believe that this work stoppage is not in the best interest of UI Health or our patients. We hope the INA will join us in negotiations today and as often as possible to work toward a new agreement and to end this strike.

UI Health is taking every step necessary to ensure our patients’ continued care and safety during the INA strike.

  • We have initiated our internal emergency management team, which will be monitoring and responding to all potential challenges during the strike to ensure safe patient care and collaboration with our external partners, including IDPH.
  • We have engaged an agency to onboard more than 600 qualified nurses and health care professionals from external sources to support our mission and care delivery.
  • We have obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent some critical care nurses, for whom there are no similarly qualified agency substitutes, from participating in the strike so that our most vulnerable patients receive the care they need. Approximately 114 nurses are prevented from striking at any given time.
  • We have taken action to temporarily limit our inpatient census, including going on ambulance bypass, declining transfer requests from other hospitals, canceling elective procedures and surgeries, and we are working with nearby hospitals in the event that any of our patients require a transfer.
  • Our outpatient clinics remain open during regular hours, and all urgent patients will be seen. Clinic appointment capacity will be adjusted to reflect staffing and ensure safe patient care.

We remain committed to addressing key issues and believe much can be resolved through further dialogue. We have offered to meet this weekend and next week for as long as it takes to resolve the outstanding issues and reach a fair and equitable agreement.

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