Kaiser, nurses reach tentative agreement
By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Hawaii Nurses Association and Kaiser hospitals reached a tentative contract agreement late last night less than four days before the nurses' strike deadline.
It was the first tentative settlement amid bargaining with five different hospitals, and strikes still loom at the other four.
The negotiators reached agreement after a 40-hour marathon session of talks that ended at around 10 p.m.
"With strike notices already given, they didn't have any choice. They had to see it through and all parties realized that," said HNA spokesman Scott Foster.
Foster said that he could not discuss details of the agreement but that a membership vote would be scheduled in the next few days.
Nearly 650 HNA nurses work for Kaiser hospitals.
"This tentative agreement achieves substantial progress toward all of our major objectives safe staffing, working conditions and nurses' pay," said Sue Scheider, director of HNA's office of collective bargaining.
The tentative agreement came after Kaiser made its final offer, Foster said.
Scheider said the offer is one "the Kaiser nurses' bargaining team is proud to recommend."
The union can invoke a 72-hour window that delays the strike deadline in order to allow for a membership vote, Foster said.
"Hopefully it will begin to move the others toward resolution,:"Foster said.
Negotiations are scheduled with Kapi'olani Medical Center today, with The Queen's Medical Center today and tomorrow and with Kuakini Medical Center on Sunday.
Foster said that no negotiations are scheduled with St. Francis Medical Center before the 7 a.m. Monday strike deadline but that union negotiations are willing to meet at any time.
The five hospitals bargain separately with the nurses association. But each has a three-year contract that expires Nov. 30, covering a total of 2,500 nurses.
Nurses and the other four hospitals were reported to be far apart on several universal issues: mandatory overtime, pay raises, greater pay for senior nurses and retiree health insurance, among them.
At a news conference Wednesday, officials of Kapi'olani, St. Francis and Kaiser said some of their nurses may continue to work to care for patients rather than honor the threatened strikes.
Dr. Virginia Pressler, Kapi'olani vice president, said the hospital's highest priority is to maintain full services not available elsewhere in the state for specialty care and high-risk patients, often infants born prematurely or with life-threatening conditions.