Kaiser nurses prepare to strike over contract

HONOLULU — A union representing nearly 1,000 Kaiser workers in Hawaii is preparing to strike in the fall following stalled negotiations over a national contract with the state’s largest health maintenance organization.

The Hawaii Nurses Association, representing mostly registered nurses, is part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing 85,000 union members also from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The coalition failed to reach an agreement in negotiations this week and is at odds over adequate staffing, pension as well as wages for new hires, according to Daniel Ross, president of Hawaii Nurses Association OPEIU Local 50.

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“Yesterday was the last day of negotiations, and there’s no others scheduled at this time so the coalition is going full force in preparing a strike,” Ross said. “The main issue is about safety. We’re trying to get language to protect staffing to make sure there’s enough staff on (duty) to safely take care of patients. There have been incidences here in Hawaii.”

The coalition bargained for raises and pensions for local workers in a national contract that expired a year ago. The Hawaii Nurses Association also has local contracts that expire on different dates for things such as shift differentials. The coalition recently won a case against Kaiser for bad-faith bargaining before the National Labor Relations Board, though the HMO is contesting the findings in a trial set for August.

“Due to the fact that the National Labor Relations Board has found that Kaiser has engaged in bad-faith bargaining, we may be able to take work actions such as striking prior to the expiration of our local contracts,” Ross said.

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Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott said there’s “no immediate impact to Hawaii.”

In a national statement from Kaiser, the HMO said it believes “we have a framework for resolving negotiations successfully” and will “provide market-competitive wages and benefits.”

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