Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Queen’s nurses
file strike notice;
Kaiser staffers
considering offer

Negotiations are under way
with Kuakini, St. Francis and
Kapiolani medical centers

By Christine Donnelly
and Susan Kreifels


Registered nurses at Kaiser Permanente are weighing a tentative contract settlement, while at Queen's Medical Center they delivered a notice that they would go on strike Christmas Eve if an agreement was not reached by then.

Talks continue at three other Honolulu hospitals where nurses have authorized strike votes.

A tentative agreement covering 600 registered nurses at Kaiser Permanente was reached late Sunday and will be voted on Thursday, said Nancy McGuckin, executive director of the Hawaii Nurses Association.

She declined to cite specifics of the tentative pact until all Kaiser RNs had seen it, but she said it addresses union concerns about health coverage upon retirement, wage increases and job cuts.

"The nursing leadership supports this tentative settlement and hopes the membership will approve it," she said yesterday.

Claude Matsumoto, the Hawaii Employers Council negotiator representing Kaiser, refused to discuss the pact beyond saying, "We're very glad we reached one."

But at Queen's, a notice was delivered last night that nurses would go on strike starting at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve if no agreement had been reached by then. McGuckin said that nurses would "vote on whatever was on the table at that time. If they vote that down, there will be a strike."

The nurses association said Queen's officials refused to address the hospital's plan to remove RNs from the bedside and replace them with unlicensed, lower-paid personnel, nor have they addressed work overloads.

The Queen's proposal at this point "doesn't get to the substance of the issues," McGuckin said. "Queen's removal of RNs from the bedside is a patent mistake. If the RNs at Queens indeed do strike, it will be for safe patient care."

A contract extension at Queen's expired at midnight today. Negotiators met late into the night and described the talks as tough.

Meanwhile, contract talks continue at Kuakini, St. Francis and Kapiolani medical centers. Registered nurses at those institutions have authorized strike votes but have not filed "intent to strike" notices, which are required 10 days in advance of a walk-out. Each hospital is negotiating separately to replace contracts that expired Nov. 30; talks began Oct. 4.

Talks were to continue with Kuakini today, St. Francis tomorrow and Kapiolani on Friday. The negotiations with Kuakini and Kapiolani include a non-binding federal mediator.

McGuckin said the Kaiser negotiations were less complicated than at the other hospitals.

"Kaiser did not have the radical type of staffing issues that the others did, particularly Queen's and St. Francis," she said.

In addition to improved wages and benefits, the nurses seek a layoff freeze and improved nurse-patient ratios.

Registered nurses in Hawaii on average earn $26.43 an hour, and got a 2 percent raise one year ago, McGuckin said.

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