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Kaiser workers plan to strike next month

Kristen Consillio
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2013 FEBRUARY 18 BSN Please get shots of Kaiser Permanente building. SA photo by Craig T. Kojima

Nearly 1,900 union workers at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii plan to go on a six-day strike starting Feb. 2.

UNITE HERE! Local 5, representing the Kaiser workers, announced the planned strike on its website Friday. 

“Over the last few years we’ve been organizing actions to protest urgent care clinic closures and mass layoffs,” said Paola Rodelas, Local 5 spokeswoman. “These changes hurt our patients and impact our ability to care for our patients. We feel Kaiser has left us no choice. That’s why we’re going on strike.” 

Last week, 88 percent of roughly 1,000 Kaiser workers voted to go on strike.

“We have received a 10-day notice from Local 5 and are disappointed by this negotiating tactic because it distracts focus and resources away from completing meaningful and productive talks,” Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott said in a statement. “We attempted to prevent the strike by contacting the union urging them to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible. We hoped that union leadership would consider this alternative to the strike but they did not. We believe an honest discussion at the bargaining table is the best way to resolve issues and differences.”

The union said Kaiser workers have been working without a contract for two and a half years. Kaiser last met at the bargaining table with the union in October.

Local 5 said Kaiser’s last offer included proposed wage increases of 2 percent in the first year of a new contract, 1 percent in the second year and another 1 percent in the third year. 

“This is the lowest wage increase that Kaiser has proposed to any of its other unions, both here in Hawaii and on the mainland,” Rodelas said. “Kaiser also wants to eliminate guaranteed pensions for new employees. If Kaiser succeeds in eliminating pensions for new employees, what’s to stop Kaiser from going after the pensions of current employees next?”

Kaiser also has refused proposed retroactive pay for employees working the past two and a half years without a contract, instead opting to give eligible employees a $600 bonus, far less than what they would receive in back pay with the raises, Rodelas said.

The strike will run until midnight on Feb. 7.

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