Striking nurses from The Queen's Medical Center paid respects to Queen Emma Kaleleonalani on her birthday yesterday. Sheri Kishaba-Leaman, a Queen's nurse, put flowers on Kamehameha's crypt, where the queen is buried.

No deal at Queen’s

Talks between striking workers
and Queen’s Medical Center
end without a pact

By Lyn Danninger

Negotiations between the union representing striking nurses and The Queen's Medical Center continued for 18 hours before breaking off around 4 a.m. today without an agreement.

St. Francis Medical Center also returned to the bargaining table today. Talks between the nurses and the hospital, which were called by a federal mediator, began at 10:30 this morning.

The two sides have not met since the strike began five weeks ago. Major sticking points between St. Francis and its 340 nurses include salary, safe staffing levels and mandatory overtime, said Hawaii Nurses Association spokesman Scott Foster.

During last night's negotiations between Queen's and the union, a number of proposals from both sides crossed the table, and the talks appeared to have made some progress toward finding middle ground.

Major issues on the table were those Queen's and its nurses have been at odds over since the strike began Dec. 3., including mandatory overtime, staffing levels and a proposed paid time off program, which combines vacation days with a portion of sick leave.

The two sides also discussed amendments to retirement benefits proposed by the hospital.

At one point early in the evening union officials said they were hopeful that at least some of the issues could be settled. Queen's showed some flexibility regarding its proposed revamping of the retirement plan, the union said.

The nurses brought along their own expert on retirement plans to the negotiations to analyze the proposed plan, said Bill Richter, a negotiator for the union. But eventually, the adviser recommended against accepting the proposal.

The main point of contention on Queen's proposed paid time off plan was an exception put forward by the nurses that would have exempted certain illnesses or injuries from the requirement of having to use 24 hours from the paid time off bank of combined sick leave and vacation time before having access to an extended sick leave bank of hours.

The union said Queen's rejected its proposal to exclude inpatient hospitalization, outpatient surgery, chronic illness and workers compensation injury or illness from the proposed requirement.

Queen's accepted two of the exceptions, said HNA's Foster, but in the end could not come to agreement on the overall counterproprosal.

Even though talks broke off, both the union and Queen's say progress was made.

"I think both parties went into negotiations with the hope of reaching agreement. There are just still some major issues that we haven't worked through yet. It's not to say that the parties haven't tried. We're still hopeful to reach an agreement and willing to go back at any time, said union negotiator Caroldean Kahue.

Queen's spokeswoman Lynn Kenton agreed.

"Great efforts were made during the 18-hour session toward agreement," said Kenton. "We continue to work on mutually agreeable language on benefits, paid time off, mandatory overtime and the distribution of the 21 percent wage increase over three years."

After the last negotiation session broke down Dec. 26, Queen's and its nurses traded accusations, with the hospital purchasing two full-page newspaper advertisements to lay out its position and the union sending out press releases.

Queen's nurses also marched yesterday morning in celebration of the birthday of Queen Emma Kaleleonalani, hospital founder and patron.

More than 100 nurses walked from the Queen Emma Summer Palace in Nuuanu to the nearby Royal Mausoleum where they placed flowers on the Queen's grave and performed a specially written chant. The nurses then marched to the medical center.

Talks are also scheduled for the two other medical centers affected by the strike. Union negotiators and officials from St. Francis Medical Center meet again today. Kuakini Medical Center and the nurses will resume talks on Monday.

St. Francis Healthcare System
Queen's Medical Center
Kuakini Health System

Hawaii Nurses Association

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