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U. of C. Medical Center reaches tentative deal with nurses union, strike canceled

Hospital officials announced Saturday that a tentative agreement had been reached with the nurses union, averting a strike planned for Nov. 26.

The University of Chicago Medical Center reportedly reached a tentative agreement with the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, averting a strike planned for Nov. 26.
The University of Chicago Medical Center reportedly reached a tentative agreement with the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, averting a strike planned for Nov. 26. In this Sept. 20 file photo, nurses picket outside the South Side hospital.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The University of Chicago Medical Center has reached a tentative agreement with its unionized nurses on a new labor contract, averting a strike that was set to start next week, officials said Saturday.

“I am pleased to announce that representatives from the University of Chicago Medical Center and the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United reached a tentative agreement early Saturday morning on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Chief Nursing Officer Debra Albert said in a statement.

“Both sides have been working since March on a contract that not only recognizes the valuable contributions our nurses make to our organization, but also ensures UCMC remains at the forefront of medical care and scientific research for years to come,” Albert said.

Union leaders said in a statement that nurses were also “pleased to see the issues successfully resolved” and confirmed the strike planned for Nov. 26 was called off.

The tentative agreement resolved all outstanding issues and nurses will vote on it Tuesday, according to a union representative.

Neither side would discuss specifics of the pact. The union said it would provide details once members vote to ratify it.

The nurses gave 10 days notice ahead of their threatened strike, which would have marked the second time they walked off the job in as many months. The sides had been at odds over pay and staffing issues, which led to about 2,200 nurses staging a one-day strike Sept. 20.

In anticipation of a work stoppage over the Thanksgiving holiday, U. of C. officials began rescheduling elective surgeries, transferring high-risk patients and, earlier this week, closing its trauma centers to incoming ambulances. Those patients were diverted to other hospitals while the Hyde Park hospital scrambled to recruit replacement nurses.

The hospital is once again accepting ambulances and resumed normal operations Saturday, according to UChicago Medicine spokeswoman Ashley Heher. Patients who were transferred to other hospitals will have the option of returning to U. of C. if they choose.

“It’s pretty disruptive to transfer a patient,” Heher said, “so we don’t want to disrupt their lives twice.”