University of Illinois nurses, hospital extend talks into Thursday night
Illinois Nurses Association members want agreements on patient counts and other safety guarantees in addition to better pay.
Negotiations between nurses and University of Illinois Hospital extended into the evening on the sixth day of a strike Thursday as the two sides failed to resolve issues surrounding workplace safety and other demands.
About 800 members of the Illinois Nurses Association went on strike last Saturday morning saying they needed more protective gear and limits on the number of patients assigned to each nurse. The union members announced the strike would last seven days.
Both hospital officials and union representatives said this week that they made progress in their talks, but as of late Thursday night no tentative contract agreement was reached. Union nurses said this week there was some progress on wage discussions “but none on safe staffing, which is the priority for nurses.”
At the hospital’s request, a Cook County judge barred several hundred nurses from participating in the strike so no patients’ health would be at risk. In all, 1,400 union nurses at the hospital will vote to approve any agreement.
On Thursday, the nurses asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to support their cause.
“Nurses are still fighting for staffing that will keep patients safe,” the union’s executive committee said in a letter to Pritzker. “Putting a maximum limit on the number of patients that may be assigned to a nurse is better for nurses and better for patients.”
In a letter to faculty and staff Wednesday, hospital officials said “we remain committed to addressing key issues and believe much can be resolved through further dialogue.”
Separately, about 3,700 hospital and university employees announced their own strike to support the nurses and ask for their own protections and wage increases. The employees range from maintenance workers to technicians and are represented by four separate bargaining units, all part of the Service Employees International Union Local 73.
The SEIU employees and the hospital have not appeared to be close to an agreement this week.
“Union leadership has not shown a willingness to compromise,” hospital executives said in their letter.
On Thursday, SEIU accused the hospital system of paying less than minimum wage to more than 150 union employees.
Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.