Media Statement: INA 10-Day Notice of Intent to Strike

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

On September 1, the University of Illinois Hospital was disappointed to learn that the Illinois Nurses Association, the union that represents our health care institution’s approximately 1,400 registered nurses, has filed a 10-day notice of intent to strike for seven days starting September 12 with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). While this action means that the INA can opt to strike anytime after a ten-calendar day waiting period, it does not mean that they will. We are hopeful that both parties will reach an agreement that reflects our commitment to our nurses while being fiscally sustainable for the hospital.

UI Health is committed to reaching a fair and equitable new contract that continues our tradition of generous wages and fair working conditions for our valuable nursing colleagues.

We will do everything within our power to avert a strike. We are prepared to continue extensive good-faith bargaining for as long as it takes to reach a successful agreement with INA. We have scheduled negotiations with the INA and the federal mediator on September 2 and 3, and we are hopeful that the INA will agree to schedule additional negotiation sessions as we believe much can be resolved through further dialogue.

Should a work stoppage occur, however, we are prepared to continue safe patient care and ongoing operations.

The University of Illinois Hospital, the only state hospital in Illinois, is committed to providing high-quality clinical care to Illinois residents. We value and respect the critical role our nurses and other healthcare professionals play in fulfilling this mission by providing vital care for our community.

Please note:

  • We believe that all of our employees should receive competitive wages and, in fact, UI Health nurses at all levels are among the highest compensated in Chicago, statewide and across the United States. On average, UI Health nurses earn over $20,000 a year more in base hourly compensation than their counterparts. This figure does not include overtime, shift differentials or other peripheral pay that further increase our nurses’ annual compensation.
  • The INA has proposed a 5% percent wage increase for each of the next three years, totaling a nearly $53 million increase in cost. This does not include the proposed increases in differentials or other peripheral pay. We believe any wage increase must reflect current economic conditions and the fiscal challenges facing the healthcare industry and the state of Illinois, including our Hospital.
  • UI Health was a trailblazer in Illinois regarding COVID differential pay, and we did not layoff or furlough a single staff member during the pandemic. It was important to us to retain and pay all staff throughout the pandemic, even those whose roles were partially or fully diminished while some routine clinical services were suspended.
  • Our nurse staffing proposal shared with the INA in our negotiations, called “Staffing for Safe Patient Care,” is a patient acuity-based model that 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.
  • Staffing by acuity also recognizes the professionalism of our nurses and takes into account each nurse’s education level, expertise, skills, knowledge, judgement and experiences. It leads to better health outcomes, more consistent and manageable nursing workloads, higher staff satisfaction and better patient experiences.
  • The largest national nursing organizations, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL), support only patient acuity-based staffing models. The Illinois Nurse Staffing by Patient Acuity Law actually requires that all hospitals in Illinois staff in this way.
  • UI Health does not support staffing ratios. One-size-fits all staffing ratios are too rigid and remove flexibility. They ignore fair workload distribution among peers on a shift-to-shift basis. Nurse staffing ratios also result in longer Emergency Department (ED) wait times, increased ambulance diversion hours, reduced patient services and higher operating costs.