Hospitals' union irate over staff 'surprise'
It threatens legal action against the buyer of two St. Francis hospitals
Calling it a "complete surprise," the head of a union representing 500 employees at the former St. Francis hospitals has threatened to take legal action against the facilities' new owner over the way word emerged of plans to lay off up to 10 percent of the 1,500-member work force.
Hawaii Medical Center revealed those plans to some staff members at meetings on Friday, according to people familiar with the situation, but has yet to publicly confirm them.
"We're disappointed that HMC officials did not contact us of the impending layoffs," Ron Kozuma, president of Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Union, Local 996, said in a statement released late Tuesday. "You can be sure we'll be demanding information from company officials on behalf of our membership and we'll be taking any legal action, if necessary."
Hawaii Medical Center Chief Executive Dr. Danelo Canete challenged the Teamsters' response, and said HMC contacted the union on Monday -- the same day the Star-Bulletin began making calls about the alleged layoffs.
"HMC contacted the Teamsters Union two days ago and requested a meeting to discuss work-force issues," Canete said in a statement yesterday. "HMC has issued no announcement on the subject. In light of these facts, we are puzzled by Mr. Kozuma's false assertion that HMC did not contact his organization, and by his stated disappointment.
"HMC remains committed to respect and openness in all our interactions with our employees and their bargaining agents."
However, Teamsters Business Agent Jeanne Ishikawa took issue with the portion of Canete's statement involving the Teamsters.
"There were no calls made to the Teamsters union on Monday," she said. "I checked with all the necessary people. We're the one that contacted HMC on Monday because we got calls here from some of our bargaining union members who were hearing rumors that (HMC) was talking about layoffs."
The Teamsters represent technicians, licensed practical nurses, housekeepers and dietary and maintenance workers at Hawaii Medical Center West and Hawaii Medical Center East.
Aggie Pigao Cadiz, executive director of the Hawaii Nurses Association, which represents 370 registered nurses at the hospitals, said she had been told by one union member that Hawaii Medical Center plans to eliminate positions for licensed practical nurses and patient care technicians and put a heavier workload on the registered nurses.
Both Teamsters and the Hawaii Nurses Association officials said they're trying to set up meetings with the newly formed for-profit Hawaii Medical Center to find out more information about the company's plans.
Brian Tanaka, business agent for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 142, said he also hasn't been told about possible layoffs but has put in a call to the company.
"We're down to the bone and no one's informed me of any layoffs at this time," said Tanaka, whose union represents 20 employees, primarily in the X-ray department, at Hawaii Medical Center East.
The two Hawaii Medical Center hospitals were formerly known as St. Francis Medical Center-West and St. Francis Medical Center-Liliha, respectively, until Jan. 14 when they were officially taken over in $68 million deal by HMC, a joint venture formed by Wichita, Kan.-based Cardiovascular Hospitals of America -- now called CHA LLC -- and the 130-member Hawaii Physicians Group.
Adib Farha, executive vice president of CHA, released a statement Monday after being questioned about the layoffs in which he said "HMC is examining every aspect of hospital operations, including technology, facilities and staffing, to determine how best to serve the goals of sustainability and excellence of care."