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Kaiser union workers stage rally over failed contract talks

Kristen Consillio
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Contract negotiations between the Unite Here! Local 5 union and Kaiser Permanente ran late Wednesday with still no agreement in sight.

The union representing employees at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is staging a rally Wednesday at the Honolulu Clinic, after three years of stalled contract talks.

Unite Here Local 5, representing 1,900 Kaiser employees, said it didn’t make headway in negotiations with the state’s largest health maintenance organization since resuming bargaining in April.

“After three years of bargaining in good faith with Local 5, we are disappointed that we still do not have a contract for our employees,” said Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott. “It is also disappointing that union leadership is calling for a work stoppage, a counterproductive negotiation tactic, when bargaining at the table is the only way to reach a fair and mutually beneficial agreement.”

The rally is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. at the clinic at 1010 Pensacola St. The union expects several hundred Kaiser and hotel workers, who will also march to City Hall, where a second rally will be held at around 5:45 p.m. and the union will deliver a signed petition asking the mayor’s office to “address our concerns about Kaiser regarding work load and patient care.”

“The city and state are one of the largest customers of Kaiser here in Hawaii. We want the mayor’s office to stand with us,” said Paola Rodelas, Local 5 spokeswoman. “We’ve presented proposals to Kaiser to alleviate the work load issues workers are facing, but Kaiser rejected those proposals.”

Kaiser recently notified the union that negotiations had “reached an impasse and implemented the 2 percent wage increase, outlined in the (last, best and final offer),” Lott said.

“As always, our top priority is the safety and care of our members and patients,” she said, adding that all Kaiser facilities will remain open. “We are taking steps to minimize the effects of the union’s action and regret any inconvenience it may cause.”

The union organized a six-day strike — the first statewide strike for Local 5 Kaiser members since 1986 — in February following objections to what it calls low proposed wage increases and a proposal to eliminate guaranteed pensions for new employees, a sticking point in the collective bargaining.

The HMO closed 10 of its smaller clinics on Oahu and the neighbor islands during the strike and rescheduled elective procedures and nonurgent appointments while consolidating resources to its larger medical facilities.

The union said Kaiser’s last offer included proposed wage increases of 4 percent over three years. That compares with a 14 percent pay raise for about 18,000 Kaiser nurses in California who went on a two-day strike in November.

The Kaiser employees include licensed practical nurses, medical assistants and housekeepers.

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