Thursday, July 1, 2004

Local 5 approves contract
with Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente workers represented by Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union have ratified a five-year agreement that expands the benefits of their prior contract, which expired yesterday.

At press time last night, the vote count was 571 in favor and 29 against. Votes from Big Island members had not been counted, but a union official said they would not affect the outcome.

In mid-June, 150 sign-waving Kaiser Permanente Hawaii employees and supporters rallied in front of the state Capitol for better retiree medical coverage and higher wages. Both goals were met in the new collective bargaining agreement, according to Local 5, which represents nearly 2,000 Kaiser employees.

Highlights of the agreement include:

>> Wage increases of 22.5 percent during the five-year contract.
>> Stronger language protecting workers' rights on the job, including promotions and transfers based on seniority.
>> Stronger limits on subcontracting and greater access by union representatives to most work areas.
>> A reduction in the number of hours needed to qualify for pension benefits.

"We're very pleased that we were able to come to a tentative agreement prior to the expiration of the contract," said Scott Nariyoshi, a Kaiser spokesman.

Eric Gill, chief negotiator for Local 5, had no such reservations, calling the agreement the "best ever" for Kaiser workers. Local 5 represents licensed practical nurses, medical assistants, lab technicians and housekeeping, among other groups.


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