Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Nurses reject
offer as being

Contingencies in the deal
make nurses unwilling to settle

By Helen Altonn

Molokai General Hospital's latest offer to its five striking nurses is too "iffy," says Caroldean Kahue, Hawaii Nurses Association chief negotiator.

The nurses took turns picketing yesterday while some met with the federal mediator.

Kahue said the nurses told their employer last week they would accept a $350 bonus as of April, this year, and another $350 bonus in October under a one-year contract if pay raises given to administrative personnel were retracted.

The employer's counteroffer yesterday was to give the nurses a $350 bonus for this year, a 1 percent pay raise next April and a 2 percent raise in October next year, if the agreement were extended to two years.

Also, the raises would depend on whether the hospital is designated as a critical access rural hospital, entitling it to additional federal funds.

Kahue said the nurses "are a bit frustrated."

"Why would they accept something that's not even a guarantee? It's iffy. It's like, don't play us for fools. We aren't fools."

Five of the hospital's six registered nurses have been picketing since May 13.

Kahue said the union filed a grievance on the issue of management pay raises.

"If they say they don't have money, that they're losing $2 million, how can they justify management pay raises?

"It's gotten to the point nurses feel they're being made fools of. For three years the nurses didn't take a pay raise, yet the managers are getting pay raises."

Talks were continuing with the federal mediator yesterday, and the nurses were hoping they could reach a settlement, Kahue said.

She said they are insisting on a one-year agreement, with the contract expiring in April, because they want the whole thing opened up to discuss staffing, pensions, medical coverage, benefits and other issues.

"Molokai's contract is an old contract. Numerous changes have been made in other contracts," she said.

"We need to update, to reflect what's happening now."

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