Unionized nurses at Deaconess Hospital have ratified a two-year contract with Bozeman Health after nearly seven months of contract negotiations.

Members of the Montana Nurses Association Local #4, which represents about 400 nurses at Deaconess Hospital, voted to ratify the contract on Sept. 16.

Amy Hauschild, an MNA labor representative, said 96 percent of voting union members approved the contract.

Bozeman Health, the county’s largest employer, and the nurses’ union had struggled to come to an agreement during 15 bargaining sessions this summer.

The two organizations used a mediator during negotiations, and the union had filed three unfair labor practice complaints against Bozeman Health for bargaining in bad faith with the National Board of Labor Relations.

In August, Bozeman Health presented a final offer, which the union overwhelming voted against.

The nurses had said the previous offer did not offer pay commensurate with Bozeman’s high cost of living, questioned agreeing to a three-year contract and a new system of performance-based wage increases.

After vetoing the previous offer, Bozeman Health and the union’s bargaining team went back into negotiations on Sept. 9 and 10, reaching a tentative agreement on Sept. 10 and ratifying the contract a week later.

“Bozeman Health is thrilled with this positive conclusion,” spokesperson Lauren Brendel said in an e-mail.

Hauschild said the bargaining team was also happy with the final contract.

“They were pleased with the outcome and pleased to be able to recommend the package to the nurses,” Hauschild said.

The two-year contract will include two wage increases at 10 percent in 2022 and 7 percent in 2023, Brendel said. However, the 10 percent raise will go into effect this fall, Hauschild said.

“That’s an effort to get money in the nurses’ pockets now to help with the high cost of living in Bozeman,” Hauschild aid.

There is a component of performance-based pay, which Brendel said aligned with policies for non-unionized Bozeman Health employees.

Hauschild said the final contract also cleaned up and clarified language from previous contracts.

Kiera Pattison, the system director of nursing at Bozeman Health, told the Chronicle in August that the previous contract, which expired in April, had not been heavily updated since the 1980s.

“We spent a lot of time to put language in place that makes it understandable and user-friendly. We’ve heard from nurses it’s confusing,” she said.