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University of Illinois nurses vote to approve new contract, following week-long strike

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More than 1,300 nurses voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening to approve a new contract with the University of Illinois Hospital and clinics, after a weeklong strike.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: University of Illinois Hospital RN Christine Sichuan listens at a rally as more than 4,000 SEIU represented hospital workers joined hospital nurses on strike, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.


© E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
University of Illinois Hospital RN Christine Sichuan listens at a rally as more than 4,000 SEIU represented hospital workers joined hospital nurses on strike, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

The nurses voted 842-13 in favor of the new, four-year contract. The nurses’ union, the Illinois Nurses Association, had reached a tentative agreement with the hospital Sept. 24 after the strike ended Sept. 19.

A major sticking point in contract negotiations had been nurse-to-patient ratios. The nurses wanted ratios and the hospital did not, saying it preferred a model that matched nurses’ skills with patients’ needs.

Ultimately, the hospital committed to hiring the equivalent of at least 160 full-time nurses, “creating natural nurse-to-patient ratios that improve core staffing and quality of care,” according to a union news release. The hospital also agreed to raises of 1% the first year, 1.5% the second year, 1.75% the third year, and 2% the fourth year of the contract, as well as the implementation of various safety and protective measures.

“This contract represents a vast improvement compared to where we were before the strike and we are happy to see that the hospital recognized the importance of supporting the nurses,” said Doris Carroll, Illinois Nurses Association president, in a news release.

Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics, said in a statement last week that he was pleased the strike had ended and believed the new agreement was in the best interests of patients and employees.

During the strike, the hospital worked with an agency to bring in temporary nurses, asked ambulances to take new patients elsewhere, didn’t take