By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - The union representing thousands of Minnesota nurses said on Tuesday it had reached a tentative agreement with hospitals on a new contract that, if approved by members, would resolve a labor dispute without a threatened strike.
Some 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Duluth areas who staged a three-day walkout in September had vowed to strike at least through the end of the year if a deal was not reached over pay hikes and working conditions.
"This tentative agreement is a historic win for nurses and patients at the bedside," Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in a statement.
Employment in healthcare across the United States remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency reported in September that the healthcare industry employed about 37,000 fewer people than it did in February 2020.
The new contract, which faces a vote by rank-and-file nurses, calls for 18% pay raises over the next three years in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and 17% in the Duluth metropolitan area. The deal also calls for new rules to address staffing shortages, the union said.
Affected hospital systems include University of Minnesota-backed M Health Fairview and Allina Health, among others.
"Allina Health is pleased with the settlement, which reflects the priorities of both parties and recognizes our commitment to our employees, patients and communities," the health system said in a statement. "We are thankful to be able to return our full attention to caring for the community at this time of increased illness and demand."
A spokesperson for M Health Fairview did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Will Dunham)