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Nurses threaten strike over pay raise proposal

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BEMIDJI, MN (WDAZ-TV) - A group of nurses in Bemidji are without a contract because, they say the hospital wants future pay raises to be based on patient satisfaction surveys.

At Sanford in Bemidji, nurses are in contract negotiations with both the clinic and the hospital.

So far, they're not liking what they're seeing, and they say that could lead to a strike.

Diane Scott, Nurse: "They gave us this proposal that said your raises will be based on patient satisfaction scores."

It's a system that could determine whether or not nurses like Diane Scott get raises, something she says isn't right.

Scott is worried the nurses could be judged on everything from their uniform colors, to the conditions of the rooms the patients have to stay in, all things nurses have no control over.

"Diane goes in there as the nurse and says, 'whoops you can't have french fries tonight, with your dinner," Ding! They think I'm the mean nurse and that goes against me the nurses are just extremely angry about this," says Scott.

Scott says Negotiations between the Minnesota Nurses Association and Sanford Health were supposed to end this week, but so far the nurses have refused to accept the review-based pay increases.

It's a battle over money that could go on indefinitely, and ultimately lead to nurses walking off their jobs.

Scott: "When you are in negotiations and then your contract expires, the nurses have the right to go on strike now."

The Minnesota Nurses Association says a majority of the nurses they represent in Bemidji would have to vote in favor of an official strike.

We reached out to the hospital, they released this statement that says, in part:

"Currently we are in the middle of the collective bargaining process, and we are committed to continuing the respectful discussion we have ongoing and look forward to achieving mutual agreement over the next few weeks. We have a business practice of not publicly discussing conversations between Sanford and its business partners, such as MNA, while those conversations are underway. We feel this practice helps facilitate conversation and provides the appropriate climate for both parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement."

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