Hospital buyer told to rehire idled staff
Hawaii Medical Center must rehire some of the Teamsters who were laid off in February
An arbitrator has ordered Hawaii Medical Center to rehire with back pay some of the 85 Teamsters employees who were laid off in February.
But arbitrator Michael Nauyokas also ruled Friday that the new owner of the former St. Francis hospitals was not contractually obligated to retain all employees for a year when it took over the money-losing operation.
Teamsters President Ron Kozuma said yesterday that the union is looking at getting "a majority" of its affected employees rehired with full back pay and full seniority. But HMC Chief Executive Dr. Danelo Canete said the number of employees that must be reinstated is minimal.
HMC laid off 210 full- and part-time employees from the 1,634-member work force.
Financially ailing Hawaii Medical Center must rehire with back pay some of the Teamsters employees it laid off in February during a 10 percent reduction of its work force, an arbitrator has ruled.
However, arbitrator Michael Nauyokas said in an expedited ruling handed down Friday that the new owners of the former St. Francis hospitals were not contractually obligated under the union contract to keep all employees for a year.
It has not been determined yet how many of the 85 affected members of Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers, Local 996, would have to be rehired or how much HMC would owe in back pay. The number of rehired workers -- and those who will receive back pay -- is due to be worked out between the parties, the ruling said.
But Teamsters President Ron Kozuma said yesterday that the union is looking at getting "a majority" of its affected employees rehired with full back pay and full seniority. He said that of the 85 members affected, 60 lost their jobs while 25 took other positions.
"We were quite pleased with the arbitrator's decision," Kozuma said. "He saw through HMC's lies and deceit, and the arbitrator did the right thing. That's why we have unions to enforce the contract, and independent third parties to rule on the grievance procedure."
But Dr. Danelo Canete, chief executive of Hawaii Medical Center, said the number of rehired employees would be minimal.
Canete said that even though HMC must reinstate some laid-off employees, the number is "sufficiently limited" that HMC's progress toward sustainability should not be seriously impeded.
"We shall welcome the reinstated employees and continue to work within the parameters of our collective bargaining agreements to restore our hospitals to financial health," he said.
HMC laid off 210 full- and part-time employees from the 1,634-member work force during its labor reduction.
Canete said he was "delighted" with the arbitrator's decision even though HMC did not prevail on every issue.
"We are particularly pleased that the arbitrator rejected the Teamsters' contention that HMC was contractually obligated not to eliminate any work positions for one year after taking over the hospitals," Canete said. "The arbitrator confirmed our position that HMC was within its legal and contractual rights to restructure our work force to become medically excellent and financially viable."
The Teamsters represent technicians, licensed practical nurses, housekeepers and dietary and maintenance workers at the Ewa Beach and Liliha hospitals, now called Hawaii Medical Center West and Hawaii Medical Center East, respectively.
Kozuma, who also said he was "quite pleased" with the arbitrator's decision, said the union is looking at exhausting all other legal resources regarding the hospital's promise to keep all employees for one year following the takeover.
"It is true that it does not state in the contract to retain employees for one year, but we are looking at other venues to address that," he said.
In ruling that some of the employees had to be rehired, the arbitrator said some of the bargaining-unit work previously handled by Teamsters members was now being performed by nonunion or non-Teamsters members and that some other bargaining-unit members were doing the bargaining-unit work of laid-off employees.
The Teamsters filed a grievance and brought the matter to arbitration after Kozuma said the layoffs violated the hospital owner's promise to retain employees for one year. The Teamsters also claimed that the staff reduction had noticeably affected the workload of union members.
The two hospitals were sold by St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii in January for $68 million to Wichita, Kan.-based CHA LLC, formerly known as Cardiovascular Hospitals of America, and the 130-member Hawaii Physicians Group, headed by Canete. CHA owns 51 percent of the joint venture, with the physicians group holding the remaining 49 percent stake.