Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Kaiser nurses began voting Sunday on a measure that authorizes a 10-day strike notice.

Nurses hand Kaiser
10-day strike notice

Queen's nurses vote to
authorize strike as staffs of
other hospitals go to the polls

By Lyn Danninger

The Hawaii Nurses Association issued a 10-day strike notice this morning to Kaiser Foundation Hospital. Kaiser's nurses voted Monday evening to give the union the authority to issue the notice.

Kaiser spokesman, Chris Pablo confirmed the organization received the strike notice.

If no agreement is reached between the parties by Dec. 1, the union said Kaiser's nurses will strike.

Pablo said the hospital is preparing in case of a strike. "It would be irresponsible not to," he said.

Meanwhile, nurses from Queens Medical Center rejected their hospital's contract offer in a strike authorization vote last night. The move clears the way for a notice to be issued to Queen's this week if a labor agreement is not reached.

With approximately 830 registered nurses, Queen's represents the largest unit of the Hawaii Nurses Association.

In a statement, Queen's referred to the vote as a "normal" part of the negotiation process and expressed hope that an agreement would be reached before the current contract expires Nov. 30. That contract contains a no-strike clause.

Nurses from St. Francis, Kapiolani Medical Center and Kuakini Medical Center are scheduled to complete voting on strike authorization measures today.

Meanwhile, contract talks between the union and Kaiser are scheduled to resume today.

Kaiser nurses want language guaranteeing medical retiree benefits and safe staffing levels added to their contract. They also want a three-year contract rather than a five-year contract proposed by Kaiser, as well as faster wage progression for experienced nurses.

Kaiser's Pablo said the organization has already proposed wage increases of 29 percent over five years as well as increases retiree benefits.

Kaiser nurses would like to move closer to the contract achieved by their counterparts employed in the Kaiser Permanente's northern California region, said Sue Scheider, director of collective bargaining for the union.

But Pablo said achieving parity with Northern California is unrealistic given current economic conditions in Hawaii and the greater number of Kaiser health plan members in the California region.

"California has a different economy that allows it to afford higher increases in health insurance," he said.

Recent legislation in California has mandated minimum staffing levels for nurses at all hospitals in the state. As a result, hospitals in California, including Kaiser, are recruiting heavily and have raised salaries to entice workers.

Nurses at Kaiser's hospital in Hawaii earn between $28 and $29 an hour, while Kaiser's California nurses recently negotiated a contract that boosted wages to $41 per hour, according to the union.

Moreover, unlike California, Hawaii's Legislature limits health plan rate increases for its public employees, Pablo said.

For example, the 2002-03 Kaiser rate increase for California Public Employees Retirement System was 23 percent, compared to a 7 percent increase for the same period for the Hawaii's Public Employees Health Fund, he said.

Kaiser Foundation Hospital
Hawaii Nurses Association

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