Wahiawa nurses
set strike date

Talks between the union and
Wahiawa General Hospital break down

By Lyn Danninger

The union representing 66 nurses at Wahiawa General Hospital issued a 10-day strike notice yesterday after talks between the two sides broke down.

Sue Scheider, director of collective bargaining for the Hawaii Nurses Association, said the hospital would not move on the offer already rejected by the nurses.

The nurses presented a counter proposal to the hospital yesterday but that was not accepted, she said.

"They will not move at all on their last and final offer even though it was overwhelmingly rejected by the nurses. There has been no change, even in the non-cost areas," Scheider said.

With the notice given, nurses could strike as soon as April 25, but Scheider said the walk-out date would be May 5 to give the hospital time to re-consider its position.

"We want to give them a chance to resolve things," Scheider said.

No further talks are scheduled, but a federal mediator could call the two sides back to the table.

Scheider said the major issues for the nurses are wages, health insurance, mandatory overtime, retiree medical benefits and increased safety provisions. The nurses also want longevity steps included in pay to reward nurses for continued service at the facility. Right now, a nurse with two years of experience gets paid the same as a nurse with 20 years experience, Scheider said. Nurses are paid about $28.60 per hour.

The hospital's final two offers call for a 19 percent and a 17 percent wage hike over three years, depending on the timing of an increase it wants in employee contributions to health insurance premiums. But the nurses contend any raises will be eaten up by that bump in insurance premiums.

"What they offered with the right hand they took back with the left hand," said Cindy Guerin, one of the union nurse negotiators.

Guerin said salaries at Wahiawa had generally kept pace in the past with those paid by the so-called Big Five hospitals -- Kaiser Permanente, Kapiolani, Kuakini, Queen's and St. Francis medical centers. But the latest offer from Wahiawa Hospital will mean its nurses' salaries are no longer competitive with those hospitals. That means Wahiawa nurses will look elsewhere for better-paying jobs, she said.

"The hospital said that it was a chance they were willing to take," Guerin said.

Wahiawa officials declined to comment, referring calls to the Hawaii Employers Council, which represents them at the bargaining table. Calls to the council were not returned.

Wahiawa General Hospital
Hawaii Nurses Association

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