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Local News

Strike prospect grows at Joliet hospital

Nurses at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center have set a July 4 strike date if they don't reach agreement on a contract.
Nurses at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center have set a July 4 strike date if they don't reach agreement on a contract.

Pressure is building for a nurses' strike July 4 at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Nurses have set the strike date, and AMITA is advertising for replacement nurses.

A bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday.

The nurses have the option of pushing back the strike date if they see progress.

But Pat Meade, a nurse and lead negotiator, said Friday that there will be a strike if there is no contract by July 4.

"Absolutely," Meade said. "The nurses are ready to go because they feel very adamantly that we need a contract that provides safe patient care."

Nurses say they are trying to change a scheduling system that sets patient-to-nurse ratios that do not take into account the amount of care required, Meade said.

AMITA also wants to take away their wage scale and replace any pay increases with merit raises, with none likely for the next three years, Meade said.

AMITA, meanwhile, is advertising for nurses at $65 an hour to be flown into Illinois and provided hotel rooms. The advertisement says AMITA prefers nurses willing to be away from home for a 17-day strike.

Nurses at the Joliet hospital, which has gone through three ownership changes in the past three decades, last went on strike in 1993.

Meade said that strike lasted 63 days.

AMITA spokesman Timothy Nelson would not comment on the recruitment of replacement nurses.

But he issued a statement saying AMITA is "prepared to provide uninterrupted, high-quality care and service throughout the possible strike."

The statement said AMITA made its final offer Monday.

"Our negotiators have been clear that wage proposals presented during previous negotiations are no longer viable, however, due to the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," hospital officials said in the statement. "AMITA Health made the difficult decision to forgo merit increases for all our valued associates for fiscal year 2021 as we deal with the economic strain from the pandemic. This decision was not reached lightly, but we believe it is a more just alternative to the furloughs and layoffs many health care providers have seen as a result of the pandemic."

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