Thursday, December 5, 2002

Kapiolani nurses
approve new deal

The Kapiolani 3-year contract is
ratified 'with lots of reservations,'
a nurse negotiator says

Picketing continues against St. Francis,
Kuakini and Queen's medical centers

By Lyn Danninger and Rod Antone

Nurses at Kapiolani Medical Center voted yesterday to ratify a new three-year contract with the hospital.

At the same time, nurses continue to picket at Queen's, St. Francis and Kuakini medical centers.

The vote at Kapiolani, along with union informational briefings, began at 8:30 a.m. yesterday at the medical center and ended at 5:30 p.m.

The vote was "very close," according to Cindy Burgess, a nurse at Kapiolani and a negotiator for the Hawaii Nurses Association. "We ratified the contract with lots of reservations."

The union did not provide vote totals.

Some of the older nurses at the hospitals, in particular, were upset with a variety of issues in the contract, Burgess said.

In addition, nurses were upset by the hospital's negotiating manner, she said.

"Management during negotiations ... made the nurses feel like nothing," Burgess said.

Major issues for Kapiolani nurses related to staffing, benefits, retirement medical coverage and salary.

Highlights of the agreement include a partial employer contribution toward medical coverage for nurses ages 62 to 70 who retire with 20 years of service; a 22 percent salary increase over three years; full-time benefits for nurses who work 36 hours a week; and pay differential increases for nurses who move between different units throughout the hospital.

The union had sought fully paid retirement medical benefits for all members but compromised on the employer contribution.

The contract maintains a longevity pay increase of $1 an hour after seven years.

In the third year of the contract, the contract adds another dollar an hour for nurses who have reached 15 years of working at the hospital. Under the old contract, the average nurse at Kapiolani made $28.60 an hour, according to the union.

The hospital is pleased with the ratification of the contract, said Gail Lerch, vice president of human resources and marketing for Hawaii Pacific Health, Kapiolani's parent.

"It's a contract that went a long way to try to meet the nurses' needs," Lerch said. "We think it's a very solid contract."

The hospital realizes that not everyone will be happy with any negotiated contract, she said.

"There's always people who feel the contract was good and those who feel the contract could be better," Lerch said.

Nurses at Kaiser Medical Center will vote from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. Saturday on whether to ratify their contract.

With no new negotiations scheduled, pickets continue in front of Queen's, Kuakini and St. Francis. No new negotiations have been scheduled for any of the three striking hospitals.

While Queen's and Kuakini have hired contract nurses to care for patients, St. Francis has been discharging patients where possible, canceling surgeries and cutting back on nonessential services. The hospital was down to 99 patients yesterday, about half of the number of patients from the previous week, said St. Francis spokeswoman Maggie Jarrett.

St. Francis also laid off 126 support staff this week in response to fewer patients. The hospital expects further layoffs next week, but it has not determined a final number, Jarrett said.

St. Francis went to court Monday on behalf of several patients to ask that at least 45 union registered nurses be ordered to return to work to provide specialized services to patients in the renal dialysis, organ transplant and hospice units. A hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.

Yesterday, the hospital asked the union to provide nurses for the same three units. The hospital had earlier made an agreement with the Hawaii Nurses Association to allow some nurses who work in critical areas to return to work under certain circumstances.

St. Francis was still waiting yesterday for a response from the nurses union, Jarrett said.

In the meantime, the hospital has needed hospice and home care nurses after 22 nurses in those areas came to work on Tuesday, Jarrett said.

The union is seeking assurances that any nurses returning to work would be covered by insurance, said a union spokesman, Scott Foster.

Both Kuakini and St. Francis, in residential neighborhoods, say they have received some complaints from neighbors about strike-related noise -- especially during evening hours as passing drivers honk their horns in support of the striking nurses.

St. Francis Healthcare System
Queen's Medical Center
Kuakini Health System

Hawaii Nurses Association

E-mail to City Desk


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