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Nurses authorize union leaders to call strike

SIOUX CITY (AP) — Nurses have authorized their union leaders to call a strike at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center in Sioux City.

At least two-thirds of nurses represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 222 voted to authorize a strike. The authorization vote ended Monday night. The nurses’ bargaining committee will now decide when or whether to strike. The union must give the hospital at least 10 days’ notice before picketing could start.

The nurses also rejected MercyOne’s most recent contract offer.

Hospital officials have said MercyOne has a contract with a nursing staffing agency in the event of a strike.

The two sides have been negotiating since at least June. The local’s current contract expired Sept. 1.

The nurses want a better nurse-to-patient ratio, higher pay, better benefits and an improved strategy to handle turnover at the hospital.

Under MercyOne’s contract offer, all nurses would receive a 3.4 percent pay increase, on average, in each year of the three-year contract. The hospital also said it has agreed to improvements in the areas of staffing, seniority, job postings, leaves of absence, bereavement leave and health and safety. The nurses union last authorized a strike in June 2010 but settled with the hospital before a walkout began.