Nurses talks stall on
issue of benefits

Nurses negotiators allege "scare tactics"
by island hospitals

By Rod Antone

Twelve hours after union negotiations for Kapiolani Medical Center nurses started yesterday, the first thing out of negotiator Theresa Yee's mouth was, "Things are not looking good."

Yee was among the Hawaii Nurses Association negotiating teams that met with federal mediators and hospital bargaining teams yesterday morning during separate sessions for nurses from the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children and the Queen's Medical Center.

Talks for both negotiating teams began at 9 a.m. and continued well into the evening.

Yee, who has been a registered nurse at Kapiolani for almost five years, said the sticking point remains "incentives" like health and retirement benefits and not necessarily an increase in pay.

"We're trying to retain the nurses we have, we want some kind of incentive for time spent at the hospital," said Yee. "If you stay there for 15 years, should you not get something for your experience and sticking it out?"

"Management needs to start whittling down their pay because we honestly feel that it's the nurses (who) take care of the patients 24-7. We just want to be treated well, not like a sweatshop."

Queen's nurses made an offer to management yesterday afternoon and were still waiting for an answer.

Queen's and Kapiolani's negotiators could not be reached for comment last night. However, they have scheduled more sessions for talks today.

Queen's employs 821 nurses while Kapiolani employs 480 nurses.

Nurses union and hospital representatives are trying to avoid a possible strike next week.

On Thursday the negotiating team for Kaiser Permanente managed to reach a tentative agreement for the 646 registered nurses who work there.

That left representatives for Kapiolani, Queen's and the Kuakini Medical Center at the negotiating table before the Monday 7 a.m. strike deadline.

No new talks have been set with St. Francis Medical Center in Liliha.

Earlier this week, St. Francis officials said the hospital had stopped admitting new patients and would stop outpatient surgeries today in anticipation of a strike.

Yee said last night that Kapiolani negotiators were resorting to "scare tactics" by threatening nurses with "traveling nurses," or out-of-state nurse replacements.

Yee also said management threatened recently graduated nurses by telling them that if they do not cross the picket line, should a strike come on Monday, that they would have to pay back the hospital up to $10,000 in orientation and training expenses that Kapiolani spends on new hires.

"Bringing in travelers alone costs up to $5,000 a week," she said. "If they're willing to do that, obviously the money is somewhere."

Hawaii Nurses Association

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