Essentia Health nurses voted to ratify a three-year labor contract with the hospital system, the Minnesota Nurses Association announced Tuesday night.

The new contract is retroactively effective as of July 1. Nurses had been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired June 30.

The MNA — the union that represents nurses at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital-Superior and Essentia Health-Duluth (Miller-Dwan Building) — reached a tentative agreement with hospital negotiators Aug. 21 after three months of bargaining talks.

"The Essentia nurses are happy to put this difficult bargaining process behind us," Essentia nurse and negotiations team member Chris Rubesch said in a news release. "We're looking forward to focusing on our patients and delivering the top-notch healthcare that Duluth patients deserve."

The contract includes a 3% pay increase the first year, 3% the second year and 2.25% the third year. The contract also includes wages comparable to what's in the Twin Cities nurses' contract, workplace violence protections that compensate injured nurses, extra emergency department pay to ensure adequate staffing, and student loan reimbursement up to a total of $3,600.

"Nurses are also happy that we will be working with Essentia on the Vision Northland project," Rubesch said in the release. "Nurses will be part of the transition, and we will be able to advise Essentia Health about the plans to create a system to deliver the highest-quality health care available."

Meanwhile, nurses at nearby St. Luke's continue to bargain for a new contract. The next scheduled bargaining date is set for Wednesday, but if a tentative agreement is not reached, the nurses' negotiating team has scheduled a strike vote for Thursday, which allows the negotiating team to call a strike if they deem it necessary.