Nurses and
St. Francis
break off

No new discussions have been scheduled
in the 5-week-old walkout

By Lyn Danninger

Negotiators from St. Francis Medical Center and the Hawaii Nurses Association met for the first time in five weeks yesterday, but the talks broke off after nearly 12 hours.

The nurses union's chief negotiator, Claudine Tomasa, called yesterday's session "an exercise in futility," according to a press release.

St. Francis spokeswoman Maggie Jarrett said, "We're hopeful and optimistic that both sides can get together and return to the bargaining table."

Talks between the union, which represents 340 St. Francis nurses, and the hospital were called by a federal mediator. Negotiations began at 10 a.m. and ended by about 9 p.m. No new talks are scheduled.

The two sides had not met since the strike began five weeks ago.

The nurses went into the latest negotiations with a counterproposal to the hospital's original offer.

But for most of the day, there was little back-and-forth talk as St. Francis considered the union's latest offer, said Hawaii Nurses Association spokesman Scott Foster.

In the afternoon, the nurses received the hospital's response. HNA chief negotiator Sue Scheider said early last night that the response contained some progress but not enough.

"There were some changes in the provisions of the contract but insufficient movement," Scheider said.

HNA countered with another proposal that was rejected by management, the union said in its release, adding that the hospital responded with an offer that was "unacceptable."

Jarrett said the union's offer was "outside our financial means."

Major sticking points when the strike began included salary, safe staffing levels and mandatory overtime.

Nurses maintain that long work hours and the number of patients they are expected to care for create unsafe working conditions. Moreover, they say, many floors are understaffed. They also want the hospital to pay 100 percent of the cost of single health plan coverage and 90 percent of family coverage. St. Francis had proposed paying 90 percent of the cost for either coverage.

St. Francis also proposed a one-year contract. The nurses want a three-year contract.

On Dec. 2, nurses at St. Francis and Kuakini Medical Center went on strike, while nurses at the Queen's Medical Center walked off the job on Dec. 3. Talks between Kuakini and the union are scheduled to resume Monday.

Negotiations between the union and the Queen's Medical Center, meanwhile, broke off after an 18-hour bargaining session that finished at 4 a.m. yesterday.

Both sides said that some progress was made toward reaching a middle ground. They also said a range of topics were discussed. During the negotiations a number of proposals from both sides crossed the table. But differences still remain on key issues such as mandatory overtime, staffing levels and a proposed time-off program that combines vacation days with a portion of sick leave.

Some progress was initially made on proposed amendments to a retirement package proposed by the hospital, the union said.

Even though the talks eventually broke off, both Queen's and union negotiators said they were still hopeful an agreement could be reached. No new talks between the two sides have been scheduled.

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

Hawaii Nurses Association

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