Nurses negotiate contract

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Hawai‘i yesterday joined Kaua‘i nurses in pressing Wilcox Hospital/Hawaii Pacific Health to approve a new contract for 150 Wilcox Hospital nurses.

Yesterday, ILWU members, nurses from Wilcox Hospital and nurses from Mahelona Hospital and Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital who are members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, planted themselves on Kuhio Highway by the Kukui Grove Shopping Center between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and waved signs to passing motorists to raise awareness of their cause.

“The ILWU is coming out,” said Claudine Tomasa, a union representative for the Hawaii Nurses Association, which represents the 150 Wilcox Hospital nurses. “A lot of nurses are married to ILWU members. And the ILWU has been supportive for the last 20 years.”

No contract settlement will occur “without agreement on staffing,” according to wording in the advisory.

The contract for the Wilcox nurses expires at the end of this month.

Clyde Hayashi, speaking on behalf of the Wilcox nurses, said he could not talk about the specifics of the negotiations because the talks are ongoing.

“We are trying to work things out, and at this point, we are actually waiting,” Hayashi told The Garden Island yesterday. “We have given a proposal and we are waiting for management to respond.”

Hiyashi added that “many issues are being discussed.”

A news media advisory the Hawai‘i Nurses Association sent to The Garden Island Wednesday noted the top concern in the contract negotiations “is proper nurse staff levels which are essential to delivering quality and safe health care for Kaua‘i’s people.”

Contract talks of this type generally revolve around salaries and benefits, but Hayashi said the negotiators have yet to take up those issues.

In the media advisory, representatives for the nurses’ union vowed to show Wilcox Hospital/Hawaii Pacific Health that the nurses, other unions in Hawai‘i and concerned citizens “are united in demanding quality and safe health care for Kaua‘i’s people.”

In an e-mail to The Garden Island, Lani Yukimura, a spokeswoman for Wilcox Hospital, wrote:

“Regarding Hawaii Nurses Association (HNA) contract negotiations at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, we are still relatively early in the process, and there is much still to be covered, including wages, benefits and staffing. These important issues have not been discussed yet.

“We were caught off guard and very surprised that HNA held a roadside demonstration and is taking negotiations into the media and public eye. We are also deeply disappointed that in its press release, HNA cited wages and staffing as reasons for their demonstration — issues that have not even been discussed yet.

“We are committed to meeting patient care needs here on Kaua‘i, believe in a fair and professional negotiations process, and our intention is to be as generous as we can in our new contract for our nurses, who we value.”

Wilcox Hospital/Hawaii Pacific Health is a nonprofit healthcare organization that was formed with the merger of Wilcox Hospital, Kapiolani Health and Straub Clinic and Hospital in 2001.

The merger of the three hospital systems allowed for the formation of a health system that has the financial muscle to provide the finest health care possible in Hawai‘i, according to a Web site on HPH.

Tomasa said nurses on Kaua‘i have waved signs on the roadway by the Macy’s Store at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center for the past two Thursdays in support of a new contract.

About 30 nurses walked the road on May 4 and more than 20 nurses gathered at the same spot on May 11.

At the same time the nurses walked for a new contract, they walked to observe “National Nurses Week, which was celebrated nationwide from May 6 to May 12.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com

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