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Standoff between Sault nurses and MyMichigan Health continues

Nurses formed a picket line outside of MyMichigan Medical Center Sault on Monday, April 15, 2024. The picket line will be occupied by nurses for 24 hours a day until Friday morning.
Courtesy Photo
Michigan Nurses Association
Nurses formed a picket line during their five-day strike against unfair labor practices outside of MyMichigan Medical Center Sault on Monday, April 15, 2024.

The standoff between nurses in Sault Ste. Marie and MyMichigan Health continues after another round of negotiations on Friday failed to produce a new contract.

Both the Michigan Nurses Association and MyMichigan Medical Center Sault are not budging over their contract demands — even after more than 15 rounds of negotiation, the latest with a state and federal mediator present.

The nurses' union is calling for higher wages and expanded benefits while MyMichigan says its offer is “fair and reasonable.”

Colleen Waucaush, RN and president of the local MNA at MyMichigan Sault, said nurses aren't backing down.

"No one is tired of fighting, no one is ready to give up," Waucaush said. "We really need to have a fair contract that is going to recruit and retain nurses, so that we can provide safe care to our community."

Waucaush said nearly a dozen nurses have resigned from the hospital since bargaining began more than six months ago.

"It's very, very frustrating," Waucaush said. "I feel like the nurses every time get their hopes up and are holding on and then something doesn't go through with the contract and another nurse resigns."

MyMichigan Health says in year one, it's offering an average pay increase of over 13% in year one and a more than $7 per hour pay increase for senior nurses. Nurses say this offer is still lower than other MyMichigan hospitals.

In a statement, a MyMichigan Health representative stood by a previous statement that the hospital's offer is fair, and that it would be "irresponsible" to provide the pay increases the MNA seeks.

"In a commitment to our community, it is our responsibility to carefully balance a fair wage increase for our nurses with what is needed to pay all staff fairly, maintain our facilities, replace critical equipment, and maintain the critical services our community deserves," the statement said.

MyMichigan Health said it's hopeful this contract can be resolved soon and request the MNA to allow nurses to vote on the contract.

Nurses will hold an informational picket in front of the hospital from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. this Thursday. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for May 29.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, we note that MyMichigan Health is a financial supporter of this station.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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