Friday, November 16, 2001

Aloha Nursing employees
could strike

By B.J. Reyes

Newly unionized workers at a Kaneohe nursing home are expected to begin informational picketing this weekend, as negotiations have stalled on their first contract.

A 10-day notice filed Nov. 6 on behalf of 155 employees at Aloha Nursing and Rehab Centre stated that workers intend to take action -- either pickets or a strike -- by tomorrow, a union negotiator said.

Pat Loo, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 480, which represents the employees, said this week that the union membership has not been asked to go on strike, although the option exists.

"We may be taking action -- not necessarily that action (a strike)," Loo said. "We believe that it will start out with some informational picketing."

The two sides last met Tuesday after being called together by a federal mediator to discuss the 10-day notice.

"Nobody moved off of any positions," Loo said.

Charles Harris, executive director of the 141-bed Aloha Nursing and Rehab, said the union rejected the last contract offer on Oct. 25.

"Despite our yearlong efforts, we have been unable to reach a contract agreement with the UFCW," Harris said. "We have been notified by the UFCW that they intend to strike or picket on Nov. 17.

"However, because we have planned and prepared for this situation, we will continue to operate our facility in the normal fashion and provide our residents with a level of care to which they are accustomed."

He declined further comment.

John Kelly, a negotiator with the Hawaii Employers Council who represents Aloha Nursing and Rehab at the bargaining table, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

The union represents a variety of staff members including certified nurse assistants, licensed practical nurses, housekeeping staff, groundskeepers, environmental staff and dietary workers.

The UFCW -- which Loo said also represents nursing home workers in other states -- won the right to represent Aloha Nursing and Rehab workers last year, and negotiations on their first contract began in December.

Loo said one key sticking point deals with contract language that would allow the company to subcontract and replace workers at any time, for any reason and not subject to a grievance.

Though he did not provide specific details, Loo said other issues include salary, health and welfare concerns of employees and access to company property by union officials.

"We're not simply going to give up the rights of our people," Loo said.

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