Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital File

Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital is shown in this April 2020 photo.

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Unionized nurses negotiating a new contract with Bozeman Health have voted down a proposed contract and will go back to negotiations with the hospital.

Members of the Montana Nurses Association Local #4, which represents about 400 nurses at Deaconess Hospital, vetoed Bozeman Health’s offer in a vote last week.

Amy Hauschild, an MNA labor representative, said 94% of voting union members vetoed the offer and 4% voted yes on the offer. Hauschild declined to say how many union members participated in the vote.

“We had a phenomenal turnout,” she said.

The offer from Bozeman Health was a last, best and final offer, which triggered a vote of the union. It proposed a 3-year contract, with both a wage scale and a performance-based “bonus” built into the compensation package, Kiera Pattison, the system director of nursing at Bozeman Health, previously told the Chronicle.

In a statement, Bozeman Health said it felt the 10% increase in nurses’ wages in the proposed contract was generous and fair.

The offer “intended to get money into the pockets of nurses as soon as possible to honor their hard work over the past 18 months,” the statement said.

Union co-president Lisa Riggin, who works on the newborn intensive care unit at the hospital, said nurses were overall happy with the wages the hospital proposed, but the criteria for the performance-based increases was still unclear.

“Starting a new system for compensation during a pandemic and also during a staffing crisis ... doesn’t feel right to the nurses,” Riggin said, adding that Bozeman’s ongoing housing shortage was another concern for union members. “We’d be agreeing to three years of a system with a lot of unknowns.”

Riggin, who also sits on the bargaining team, wasn’t surprised that the hospital’s final offer was rejected by union members.

“The vote itself, we think, speaks pretty clearly to what the nurses are comfortable with and not comfortable with,” she said. “We’re definitely hopeful to go in a direction that meets the needs of both the hospital and the nurses.”

The union and Bozeman Health could begin renegotiations as early as September or by mid-October, Hauschild said.

“While we are disappointed the offer was not accepted by the Montana Nurses Association, we are confident we can come to an agreeable solution that will meet our common goals of increased compensation and the recruitment and retention of high performing nurses,” the hospital said.

The union began bargaining with Bozeman Health in early March on the new contract. Its previous contract expired in April.

If Bozeman Health proposes a renegotiated contract, union members will again vote to ratify the contract.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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