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Nurses strike at two Minneapolis area hospitals

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- Registered nurses at two area hospitals here went on strike Sunday, and nurses at a third were preparing to vote on a proposed contract.

Wages, staffing and patient care were the key disputed issues, strikers said.

About 1,300 nurses at two of the largest units in the Fairview Hospital system rejected a tentative agreement on Saturday.

Pickets went up at Fairview University Medical Center Riverside's campus and Fairview Southdale Hospital. No new talks were scheduled.

A Fairview spokeswoman said the strike has not affected hospital operations because replacement nurses are filling in.

"We plan to continue to do surgery as usual," said Jean Tracy, a Fairview spokeswoman. "Certainly we expect it may be a bit slower than usual at first. Physicians may want to hold off on elective surgeries a bit."

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Registered nurses at 10 other area hospitals have approved new contracts, which generally provide a wage increase approaching 20 percent over three years.

Most of the nurses work part-time and earn about $25 per hour under the old contract. A nurse with about 10 years experience was earning about $28 per hour.

"A senior nurse, with all of her expertise, skills and knowledge, makes only about 10 percent more than when she started about 25 years ago," said Jan Rabbers, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses at 13 of the area's 19 hospitals.

Staffing levels and patient care also are key issues at the two Fairview hospitals, said Rabbers.

"Nurses have been telling employers for a number of years that patient care was at risk because of staffing. Nurses are working 16-hour shifts," said Rabbers.

Nurses at Methodist Hospital in nearby St. Louis Park vote Sunday night on their proposed contract.

In 1984 the Twin Cities area was the scene of the nation's longest strike by registered nurses when about 6,000 walked out for 39 days.







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