Nurses who rejected the latest contract offer from Dubuque’s Finley hospital may vote to go on strike. Linda Merfeld is a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 199 “We told the hospital that the nurses wouldn’t accept this contract and we are stronger now than ever before,” she says. “I think it is very apparent that the nurses need something better.” A key part of the most recent contract offer was a three-percent increase in pay. “We need a contract that not only recruits new nurses, but also retains the nurses we have. We need some respect shown to us in this contract and that’s why we turned it down,” she says. Finley Hospital CEO John Knox says administrators and nurses have agreed to 17 articles so far. “So what remains is the wages, obviously, and some debate about certain other benefits that impact our costs as well, but really there is not a huge amount left on the table.” Knox says one issue the hospital won’t budge on is a proposed “nursing council” that would be made up of an equal number of nurses and administrators. He says Finley’s fully willing to have nurse input on how to improve nursing practice and care at the hospital, but will not let the committee decide on staffing ratios at the hospital. He says they don’t get to make that call at most other hospitals, either. Now that the nurses have turned down the latest contract offer, mediation will start immediately. If it doesn’t get results, the union will issue a ten-day strike notice. Hospital administrators say they have backup nurses they can call in if a strike does happen.
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