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Nurses union to file unfair labor complaint against Oahu care home

                                Nurses and certified nurse aides strike at the Oahu Care Facility on South Beretania Street in July.
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Nurses and certified nurse aides strike at the Oahu Care Facility on South Beretania Street in July.

The Hawaii Nurses Association says it is filing an unfair labor practice charge against the management at Oahu Care Facility, a nursing home in Honolulu.

The union said after months of contentious negotiations over a new contract — and a seven-day strike in July — on behalf of the facility’s registered nurses and certified nurse aides, it was hopeful.

Union members had voted to ratify new collective bargaining agreements with facility owner Pacific Skilled Healthcare LLC, which would have resulted in a 21% wage increase for registered nurses, and a 27% wage increase for certified nurse aides over a three-year-period.

Additionally, nurses who have been with Oahu Care a long time would receive differential pay.

The CNAs and nurses were making below-market rates, at $14.95 an hour for the former, and $33 an hour for the latter, the union said, resulting in a never-ending staffing shortage and mandatory overtime.

“These increases would have brought their pay up to the lower range of the market, but they agreed to the compensation as a way to help Oahu Care Facility recruit nurses for the dangerously understaffed skilled nursing facility,” said Daniel Ross, Hawaii Nurses Association president, in a statement. “The facility provides care for frail kupuna and vulnerable residents who require more attention.”

After notifying management last Thursday that members had voted to ratify the agreements, the union learned the next day it was eliminating a medical insurance plan.

This was a shock, according to Ross, because the issue was never brought up during the collective bargaining process. The union was never sent any information on the plans, he said, nor informed how many employees would be affected by the change.

“Throughout the protracted collective bargaining process over the past several months, this issue was never brought to the table,” he said. “It is illegal for employers to make unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment.”

The union will be filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, he said, and issuing a “demand to bargain” motion over the medical insurance change.

“This will set back our ability to move forward,” he said.

The Oahu Care Facility, however, said in a statement it would continue to provide insurance options for its staff.

“Oahu Care Facility will continue to provide insurance options at comparable levels as always to our staff,” said the facility in a written statement. “There is no plan to take away any benefits that our staff currently have.”

The Nevada-based Pacific Skilled Healthcare LLC acquired Oahu Care Facility, an 82-bed nursing home on Beretania Street from the Ito Healthcare Group last fall as PSH Oahu LLC, according to business registration records.

The union says its contract ended in February, when Pacific Skilled became the new employer, and that negotiations have been underway since then.

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