Illinois Nurses Association (INA) has issued Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet a notice of intent to strike indicating the registered nurses it represents will conduct a two-day strike starting at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 8, 2024, and concluding at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 10, 2024. This is a disappointing and unproductive decision by the INA, and does nothing to advance the bargaining process or support the community we serve.
Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet reasserted to INA our last, best and final offer for our RN contract and declared an impasse on December 22, 2023. Given our impasse with INA, we made the decision to move forward with implementing our last contract offer. We can no longer delay paying our nurses a competitive wage and must be able to successfully recruit and hire nurses to support our care teams. Joliet residents deserve ready access to the quality care they expect from Saint Joseph - Joliet, and we have the responsibility to ensure we have the ability to provide that care to all who need it.
Since December 22, we have expected INA leadership to provide us with their counter proposal to our offer, and to date they have not done so. Instead of offering meaningful proposals for us to consider, INA has opted to call a third two-day strike—a decision that is unproductive, and ultimately creates unnecessary burdens for our nurses, patients and community.
We have consistently encouraged INA to utilize the third party mediator to share and communicate any new adjustments, proposals or ideas they would like to present. Again, to date, we have not received any updated proposals from INA.
Throughout negotiations, we listened and heard our nurses, and held productive two-way conversations with their INA representatives. We agree there are issues to address, which we believe we have done in the final contract offer we are implementing, including:
- Increasing entry level wages by nearly 19% in year one of the contract to ensure market competitive levels and aid with recruitment as we continue to build up and support our care teams—with additional raises in years two and three of the contract.
- Increasing middle tier wages nearly 17% in year one of the contract to assist with retention—as well as additional raises in years two and three—implementing a wage and incentive pay structure that will assist with creating a culture of associate longevity.
- For our long-tenured nurses (30+ years), increasing our market wage rate over 2% in year one of the contract to align with our other Ascension Illinois hospitals. This represents a top of the scale wage rate that is in the 90th percentile for registered nurses in the region. This group, as well as our 20-29 year RNs, would also receive additional wage increases in years two and three of the contract, as well as lump sum bonuses.
- Improved critical staffing incentive program, new hire orientation process, referral bonuses, float differential pay and call pay. (All implemented January 21, 2024)
We look forward to our nurses receiving these increased wages and the recognition they deserve when our new wage scale takes effect on March 3, 2024. These are exciting changes and ones which will make a difference for our nurses, associates and the community.
Delivering safe, quality patient care remains our top priority, and Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet is well prepared to remain open and care for our patients during this short-term strike. In order to fulfill our commitment to uninterrupted quality care for our patients, we have contracted with a staffing agency that specializes in work stoppage events and will provide us access to a full complement of duly qualified, skilled and credentialed registered nurses.
Regardless of the planned duration of the strike, we are contractually required to commit to a minimum of four days of work for any registered nursing staff replaced, starting from the first day of a strike. Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet represented registered nurses will be temporarily replaced starting the first day of the strike on Thursday, February 8, 2024, and will be able to return to their scheduled shifts beginning the morning of Monday, February 12, 2024, as soon as our replacement agency contractual obligation is fulfilled.
Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet would prefer not to have to utilize these extended contracted services, but we must make every provision for helping to ensure the health and safety of our patients, families, providers and associates.
We all have the same shared goal—providing safe, quality healthcare to those we are privileged to serve. We remain indebted to our associates, leaders and physicians as they continue to work together to provide outstanding care to our community members and families.