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Kapiolani hospital workers OK pact

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About 250 employees at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children have accepted a new three-year contract that calls for 2 percent wage increases each year and improvements to health and pension benefits.

The contract affects workers under the Hawaii Teamsters & Allied Workers Union Local 996, including clinical assistants, surgical technicians, nurses aides and dietary workers, as well as employees in maintenance and facilities management.

In addition to the pay raise, the new contract also calls for improvements in tuition reimbursement and training pay. The agreement runs through June 30, 2013, according to a Kapiolani spokeswoman. The hospital has 1,328 employees.

While a 2 percent per year wage increase will just about keep up with the forecast for inflation over the next three years, it was viewed as a success by the union.

"Given the economy and continuing challenges in the health care industry, we are pleased with the outcome of our negotiations," Teamsters President Ron Kozuma said in a news release.

Jobs in the medical field are desirable because of the high pay and wage increases typically given to attract and retain workers, said Eric Mais, professor and chairman of the finance department at the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business.

"There’s just giant demand for health care workers in general," Mais said. "With our shortage in health care workers, it’s not surprising we’d have to increase the pay to get people to come here."

George Greene, president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said, "Even in a down economy you have needs for certain positions in the health industry. As a result of that, you’re still going out trying to compete against other health care facilities in order to recruit those workers."

Health care is the second-largest private industry in Hawaii behind tourism, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Over the past five years, the industry has recorded a steady annual growth rate of 4 percent. From 2010 to 2011, medical jobs are expected to increase 4.4 percent as the population ages, according to state figures. Hawaii has more than 100,000 workers in the medical field.

Kozuma said the Teamsters Union is in the process of ratifying contracts for workers at medical facilities including the Queen’s Medical Center, St. Francis Hospice, Hawaii Medical Center and Liberty Dialysis. The Teamsters represent nearly 1,500 health care workers statewide.


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