HILO — The Hawaii Nurses Association staged an informational picket at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in front of North Hawaii Community Hospital.
The union represents the majority of Hawaii’s private-sector nurses, with approximately 5,000 members throughout the state — that includes 72 nurses at the 35-bed facility in Waimea which became a part of The Queen’s Health Systems in January 2014.
HNA President Dan Ross said contract negotiations between the union and The Queen’s has been ongoing since late February. The contract expired March 31.
“We’re still pretty far apart,” Ross said of the negotiations, adding that HNA’s concerns largely center around staffing levels and patient safety.
The hospital, he said, has difficulty with recruitment and retention, and one reason for that is a disparity in pay between Queen’s facilities.
Nurses at sister hospitals in Honolulu make 20 percent more than nurses in Waimea, Ross said.
According to Ross, as of June 2, the pay rate for nurses at The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu, where Ross himself is a nurse, will be $59.63 per hour, while the pay rate at North Hawaii Community Hospital is $47.45 per hour.
Saturday’s picket is not a strike, and there will not be any work stoppage, he said.
“We just want to draw attention to the issue and put some pressure on management to compromise and work with us,” he said. “I’m hoping it will show management we have the support of the community and kind of force their hand to start to compromise with us.”
Ross said the HNA is not at the point of considering a strike and will see what happens with mediation efforts between the two organizations scheduled for May 10.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.