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Nurses in sole group to reject new HGEA deal

This story has been corrected.

Six of seven bargaining units of the state’s largest public-sector labor union yesterday ratified a new two-year contract that will mean a 5 percent pay cut, an increase in their health care premium payments and an increase in time off.

But the 1,561-member Unit 9 of registered professional nurses rejected the proposed contract in a 509-392 vote. The split vote does not affect the ratification of the contract by each of the other bargaining units, Hawaii Government Employees Association spokes­woman Jodi Endo Chai said.

For the public and the rest of the 28,124-member Hawaii Government Employees Association, it also means an end to Furlough Fridays.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the contract would save the state about $65 million in fiscal year 2012 and $59 million in fiscal year 2013, but some say it is not enough to help cover the projected $1.3 billion deficit.

HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said of the Unit 9 vote: "This is a clear reflection of the fact that wages for registered nurses in the public hospital system are woefully behind the private sector, and our public hospitals — which provide the bulk of acute care services on the neighbor islands — is simply not in a competitive situation with private facilities.

"It is our hope that as we return to the bargaining table, the state administration and Hawaii Health Systems Corp. take a realistic approach to bargaining a fair agreement with their nurses, or risk losing more staff because of the pay gap they are enduring."

The HGEA and government negotiators reached a tentative contract April 6 in which the Abercrombie administration agreed to "a favored nation clause," which would increase workers’ time off to 30 days a year from 21 days and end the two furlough days a month.

The new contract would also increase health care premium payments paid by workers to 50 percent from 40 percent. Under the Lingle administration, as premiums increased, workers were required to pay more of the premium costs, and Abercrombie restored the 40 percent payment by workers in March.

Perreira said the agreements were difficult for members in the six other units to accept, "given that for the past two years, they have been doing ‘their share’ by enduring significant cuts in pay, as well as working in environments with reduced staffing and resources."

"It is clear that government employees have been sharing much of the load of balancing the state’s budget, and they are frustrated that little seems to have been done to ensure that our state budget will be solidly balanced with sufficient revenue to provide for government operations," he said.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle had publicly criticized the contract for being closer to a 3.5 percent pay cut and called the extra time off vacation days.


» The Hawaii Government Employees Association’s Unit 2, representing blue-collar supervisory employees, ratified a two-year contract, in a 192-156 vote. The graphic on this page transposed the “yes” and “ no” votes.

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