Strike? University of Michigan nurses union discusses option while planning another picket & march
In the meantime, the nurses have planned an Oct. 12 march through Ann Arbor topped with an informational picket outside of the University of Michigan Health System.
A work stoppage would require a vote from the 4,000-member union. That vote has not been scheduled, said Ann Kettering Sincox, spokesperson for the Michigan Nurses Association, the collective bargaining representative for U-M's nurses.
However, members of a union committee that advises its bargaining team met Tuesday and had a discussion about a work stoppage, Sincox said. That committee, which has around 100 members, does not negotiate directly with U-M.
Sincox said the group asked general questions, such as whether or not nurses on strike would receive health insurance benefits.
“It’s not something that happens every day,” Sincox said. “There are questions about ‘What does that mean?’ and ‘How does that work?’”
She did not have further detail on the committee’s talk.
The last nurses strike occurred in 1989 and involved a membership of 1,800 nurses, according to the website for the union, the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council.
The work stoppage lasted 19 days and took Washtenaw County Circuit Court involvement to resolve the dispute that included disagreements over mandatory overtime and wages.
This year, the 4,000-member nurses union has been working without a contract since July 1.
U-M and the nurses last negotiated Sept. 29. The sides are working to reach an agreement through a negotiator provided by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission rather than bargaining face to face. No further meetings are scheduled, said Michael Steigmeyer, a spokesperson for UMHS.
The parties disagree on allowances for overtime, paid time off and heath benefits. U-M, citing a tough budget year and harder times ahead, is seeking to limit overtime for nurses and increase their health insurance premium.
The two sides have met more than 40 times over about six months, but have not yet hashed out a contract.
Sincox said today that the nurses union would provide a 10-day notice to UMHS if a strike were planned.
The march and picket will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Liberty Plaza, 310 S. Division St., and end at U-M Hospital. Sincox said she expects attendance to top 1,000.