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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Kapi'olani hospital talks go to mediator

By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer

Officials from Kapi'olani Health and the Hawaii Teamsters Local 996 are scheduled to meet Monday with a federal mediator to continue contract talks for about 200 union employees, representatives of both sides said yesterday.

The employees, who are at the Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children, have been working without a contract since Aug. 1, according to Pat Oda, communications director for Kapi'olani Health, the medical center's parent.

The workers' most recent three-year contract expired June 30 and was extended to July 31, Oda said. Members of the union employed at the medical center include cooks, food-service workers, housekeepers, nurse's aides, medical assistants, warehouse employees and maintenance workers, she said.

Monday's talks will be the fifth meeting with a federal mediator to resolve the contract issues, she said.

Mel Kahele, president of Hawaii Teamsters Local 996, said the stumbling block is the issue of paid time off. Oda described this measure as a benefit program that combines vacation, holiday and sick time into one bank that employees can use throughout the year.

Under Kapi'olani Health's proposal, union employees have five unrestricted days of sick leave annually and another seven "extended-leave" days that they can use only if they are ill for three consecutive days and then provide a note from a physician.

Employees who do not use their annual sick leave can take five of those days as time off for any reason or take an additional five days of pay, Oda said. They can also carry over the seven extended-leave days into subsequent years.

The union's position is that paid time off strips union employees of much of their sick-leave benefit — especially for those who have substantial accumulated sick leave.

"This is a setback to the 1920s and 1930s," Kahele said.