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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 11, 2003

Kuakini nurses ratify contract

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Nurses at Kuakini Medical Center yesterday voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract that gives them a pay raise of 20 percent over three years.

Status of disputes at local hospitals

The Queen's Medical Center

• 21 percent raise over three years under tentative agreement reached yesterday. Covers 820 nurses.

Kuakini Medical Center

• 20 percent raise over three years under contract ratified yesterday. Covers 220 nurses. Maximum shift reduced from 16 to 14 hours.

Kapi'olani Medical Center

• 22 percent raise over three years under contract ratified Dec. 4. Covers 480 nurses.

Kaiser Medical Center

• 21 percent raise over three years under contract ratified Dec. 7. Covers 640 nurses.

St. Francis Medical Center

• 340 nurses have been on strike since Dec. 2. No talks scheduled.

The vote tally was not released by the Hawai'i Nurses' Association, but Kuakini nurse Kerry Lineham said the contract was approved by an "overwhelming" majority of the 191 nurses who voted. Kuakini has 210 registered nurses who walked off their jobs Dec. 2.

"I'm happy that we have a contract. It's a good contract. All the nurses are happy to get back to work," Lineham said.

The nurses will return to work Jan. 17 at the earliest, hospital spokeswoman Donda Spiker said. She said the nurses first will have to go through an orientation session to learn a computer system that was installed during the strike.

"Kuakini is pleased that the nurses have ratified the contract," Spiker said last night. "We look forward to having them back at work."

Spiker said no nursing positions were lost during the strike. But she said at least two nurses have resigned and will not return.

The contract settlement was reached early Tuesday after a marathon negotiating session. Lineham said the contract addressed key issues of mandatory overtime, patient-to-nurse ratios and health insurance for retirees.

Kuakini nurses will receive pay raises of 7 percent in the first year, 6.25 percent the second and 6.75 in the third. That translates to hourly pay, by the end of the contract, of $24.66 to $41.81 and annual salaries of between $42,744 and $86,965.

Although the pay raises are welcomed, Lineham said the strike was about patient care and safety, not wages.

Lineham added that many harsh words were said by nurses about the hospital's management during the strike. But he said he didn't feel that those statements would come back to haunt the nurses.

"How that will affect our work, well, it's not, because I'm going to look after my patients and that's what I'm there to do," Lineham said.

Kuakini brought in 35 replacement nurses during the strike and several will work until Jan. 19. Spiker said the union nurses will be placed in different units than the replacements during the three-day period when both are in the hospital, to avoid possible conflicts.

Meanwhile, striking nurses at The Queen's Medical Center will hold informational meetings today and tomorrow to go over their tentative contract agreement. A settlement was reached Wednesday, but many Queen's nurses have said they are not happy with the terms of the contract, particularly a management proposal to combine vacation and sick leave into one "paid time off" allotment.

No date has been set for the nearly 800 nurses at Queen's to vote on the agreement.

At St. Francis, no new talks have been scheduled between the hospital and about 400 striking nurses. The two sides met last Jan. 3, but the only thing they agreed on was they were still very far apart.