More than 800 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital will go on a one-week starting Saturday morning as the nurses' union and hospital administrators remain far apart on contract negotiations with no deal in sight.
The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents the hundreds of UIH nurses working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, is seeking to resolve several issues including "safe patient limits," which Doris Carroll, INA president and UIH nurse, said is the most important issue in contract talks.
"Negotiations began earlier this summer but after 20 negotiating sessions, the hospital refuses to engage in a substantive discussion about achieving safe staffing by setting a limit on the number of patients that can be assigned to each nurse," Carroll stated in a news release.
INA is also supporting the Safe Patient Limits Act, an Illinois House Bill that would require hospitals to follow more reasonable nurse-to-patient ratios.
The three-year contract between the INA and the hospital system expired on Aug. 24, but was extended to Sept. 7.
On Friday, a Cook County judge granted the hospital's request for a temporary restraining order against the INA, preventing select critical care nurses it represents from striking, according to a statement from the University of Illinois Health.
Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics, said the health system will do everything "reasonably within our power to avert a strike" as negotiations with the nurses' union continue in the hours leading up Saturday.
"We are hopeful that both parties will reach a fair and equitable new contract that continues our tradition of generous wages and fair working conditions for our valuable nursing colleagues, while being fiscally sustainable for the Hospital," Zenn said in a statement.
More than 2,000 University of Illinois employees represented by the Service International Union Local 73 also plan to strike against the hospital in September, according to the INA.