Nurses at University of Illinois Hospital Go on Strike After Contract Talks Break Down

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More than 800 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital are hitting the picket lines Saturday after marathon negotiations failed to yield a new contract between the nurses’ union and hospital officials this week.

The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents more than 1,400 nurses at the hospital, announced that a seven-day strike would commence at 7 a.m. Saturday, with at least 800 nurses expected to picket during the first day of the work stoppage.

The union is demanding increased access to personal protective equipment in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, reductions in the number of patients under the care of each nurse, and an increase in pay, among other contractual demands.

Talks between the two sides dragged on for more than 14 hours Friday and into Saturday morning, but after negotiations broke down, the INA announced that it would authorize a strike beginning at 7 a.m.

The University of Illinois Hospitals filed a lawsuit attempting to stop some critical care nurses from picketing, and according to a judge’s ruling, some nurses will be required to continue working. A temporary restraining order issued by the judge applies to 535 of the approximately 1,400 nurses working in the UIH system, but only impacts 118 nurses at a time, according to officials.

Officials with UI Hospital and Clinics say they are “disappointed” that an agreement could not be reached.

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

According to a press release, officials have contacted an agency to onboard more than 600 nurses and health care professionals for help during the strike.

Outpatient clinics remain open, and all urgent patients will be seen.

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