Media Statement: INA Strike Authorization Vote at UI Health

August 20, 2020

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

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

We are still in contract negotiations with the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) and are committed to continuing our work to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  Since June 9, 2020, we’ve had fifteen meetings with the INA, two of which were with the assistance of federal mediators. Additional meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks.

UI Health has a proud history of leading in the healthcare sector with robust collective bargaining agreements that include a total compensation package that demonstrates our respect and appreciation for the critical role of our nurses and other healthcare workers. We are disappointed that despite progress in negotiations INA leadership has chosen to call a strike vote, even though the hospital has only yesterday presented its initial economic proposal.

We value and respect all our essential workers and the critical roles they play in providing vital care for our community. While we hope a strike will not occur, we will take any and all necessary steps to prepare for a potential work stoppage to ensure our patients’ continued care and safety.

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 6% 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 proposed increases to 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 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, called Staffing for Safe Patient Care, is a patient acuity-based model and focuses on obtaining the right nurse at the right time to care for the patient so we can achieve the highest level of safety, quality, service and health outcomes.
  • 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 we staff in this way.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Our next meeting with the INA is scheduled for August 26, 2020 and meetings are scheduled every Wednesday and Thursday. We are hopeful that both parties will reach an agreement that reflects our commitment to our nurses while being fiscally sustainable for the hospital.