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Published July 29, 2011, 06:25 PM

Strike a 'Scary' Possibility for Bemidji Nurses; No Negotiation Date Set

Nurses at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center could call for a strike if officials at the hospital don't offer a "fair" contract.

Nurses at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center could call for a strike if officials at the hospital don't offer a "fair" contract.

Nurses rejected a contract offer last night, but now both sides say they want to avoid a strike.

"We wanted to ratify a contract and ratify negotiations, we felt that was going to happen and frankly we're disappointed we had to take strike vote yesterday," RN Peter Danielson said.

Though nurses at Sanford Bemidji aren't on strike yet, they say it could come to that if management doesn't give them a fair contract.

"Our PTO, health insurance and pension, of that Sanford wants to get rid of," RN Lorrie Seitz said.

Their previous three year contract expired in February, and the two parties held off on a new one while Sanford merged with North Country Regional Hospital.

Seitz says nurses have been negotiating with Sanford for a new contract since spring.

"There was no time when we weren't willing and continue to be willing to be at the negotiating table and we'd be glad to go back as soon as possible," Chief Operating Officer at Sanford Health Joy Johnson said.

Seitz and Danielson say the last offer didn't outline safe staffing to make sure enough nurses and resources were assigned to patients.

The nurses are required to give a ten day notice before calling a strike.

"It's scary, but we felt like we were given no choice," Seitz said.

"I love to take care of people. Nursing is a calling. I like to help people in times of need," Danielson said.

Johnson said Sanford wants to avoid a strike, but is ready just in case.

"We have made a commitment to be fully-staffed in the event of a strike. We will have replacement staff and we will continue to serve our community and there will be no disruption in services to the community," Johnson said.

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