HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Registered professional nurses in the Hawaii Government Employees Association failed to ratify a new contract offer. Their bargaining unit is the only one from HGEA that rejected the deal. Unit 9 is made up of 1,561 nurses. They work at state-run facilities that provide acute nursing home and rural health care services. HGEA's executive director said their wages are not competitive and are "woefully behind the private sector."
"I regret that some people don't feel that enough has been done as far as they're concerned, but obviously the majority has decided that we're all in this together," said Governor Neil Abercrombie.
According to Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), which runs 12 medical facilities statewide, the salary for an entry-level position ranges from $57,828 to $71,772. For a mid-level unit manager, the range is $78,816 to $97,860. A top-level manager earns $88,656 to $110,088. The starting salary for an HGEA nurse is $57,828 compared to the starting salary for a nurse at the Queen's Medical Center which is $65,832.
A spokesman for HHSC said the agency is committed to developing an equitable solution.
"HHSC respects the integrity of the ratification process and was surprised to learn of the non-ratification vote of the hospital nurses," said HHSC public affairs director Miles Takaaze.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are trying to close a $1.3 billion dollar budget shortfall. They're concerned because four other union contracts still need to be settled. HGEA's agreement ends furloughs and only includes a 5% pay cut.
"It's going to be tight right now. It's going to be very tight because the assumption is they would have gotten more in payroll savings, much more than the 5%," said House finance chairman Rep. Marcus Oshiro.
Any settlement reached by the nurses in Unit 9 will not affect the contract terms for other HGEA members.