HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A six-day strike that affects Kaiser Permanente facilities statewide started at midnight. After working without a contract for more than two years, hundreds of employees walked off the job on Monday.
"We're just asking for what is fair from Kaiser, what is fair for quality patient care that we give," said Shanelle Simpliciano, a nurses aide at the Moanalua facility.
Kaiser's latest contract offer contained a 4% pay raise over 3 years, according to Unite Here Local 5. Union members also oppose a plan to eliminate guaranteed pensions for new employees.
"They're going after the pensions, not settling the contract, and first and foremost, the patients, with not enough staffing, it's hard for us to support them the best we can," said recovery technician Robin Taclas.
The pension change for new hires is needed to control costs and to help keep health care affordable for members, according to Kaiser officials.
"Local 5 chose to strike during the peak of the flu season. We want to apologize to any of our members and ask for patience and understanding, and I want to let them know that we're open, we're staffed, and we're going to continue to deliver the quality care we always have," said chief nursing executive Linda Puu.
10 clinics on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island are closed until the strike ends on Saturday. Kaiser officials said that despite efforts to minimize any disruption, more than 100 people showed up at the closed sites on Monday and had to be redirected to other locations. 12 larger facilities remain open.
Physicians and registered nurses are not part of the union. Kaiser brought in employees from the closed clinics and flew in workers from California to help fill the gaps. The organization also hired vendors for food services and housekeeping.
"I just think it's affecting the people in the hospital that need them more than anything, but if this what they have to do to get their benefits and pay, then this is what they have to do," said Big Island resident Pamela Miller.
"I'm not opposed to them because of what they're doing. I feel they have the right to do that, but I don't have to pass up my appointment," said Kaiser member Ernest Harris.
Local 5 represents 1,874 Kaiser Permanente employees, including licensed practical nurses, maintenance workers and medical assistants. Kaiser officials estimated that about 10% of the union employees showed up to work on the first day of the strike.
"We have offered to come to the table. We still offer to come to the table and we hope that we can reach an agreement soon," said Puu.
The two sides might return to the bargaining table during the week of February 16, but no specific date has been set.
The following facilities are open and will operate under normal hours:
Moanalua Medical Center and Specialty Clinic
Moanalua After Hours Care
Honolulu Medical Office and Ambulatory Surgery Center
Koolau Medical Office
Mapunapuna Mohs Surgery Center
Waipio Medical Office
Behavioral Health Ala Moana
Maui Lani Medical Office
Maui Lani After Hours Care
Wailuku Medical Office and Ambulatory Surgery Center
Maui Lani Elua Clinic
Behavioral Health Wells Street
Kona Medical Office
The following facilities will close Feb. 2–8, reopening on Monday, Feb. 9:
Hawaii Kai Clinic
Mapunapuna Clinic (except areas listed above)
South Kona Clinic