Kaiser health care workers are planning a strike this month

HONOLULU — Nearly 2,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in Hawaii plan to strike later this month over wages and staffing concerns.

UNITE HERE Local 5 said the strike due to begin Nov. 22 would affect 20 facilities across Hawaii. Thousands of Kaiser health care workers in California have already said they will strike starting Monday.

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Local 5 spokesperson Bryant de Venecia said Wednesday that negotiations were continuing. Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions began national bargaining in April. Local 5 has been negotiating some Hawaii-specific issues with Kaiser as well.

Local 5 said in a news release that Kaiser’s latest proposal was for an “insulting” 2% wage increase contingent on the union’s agreement to a two-tier wage system under which new hires would receive lower pay. The union said Kaiser also failed to address concerns about short staffing, while workers report being stressed and overworked during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Arlene Peasnall, Kaiser’s senior vice president of human resources, said in a statement that Hawaii union-represented employees earn about 26% above the average market wage. She said Kaiser offered up to 4% yearly pay raises — 2% pay increases plus a 2% cash payout each year of a four-year contract.

“The challenge we are trying to address in partnership with our unions is the increasingly unaffordable cost of healthcare. … Wages and benefits account for half of Kaiser Permanente’s operational costs,” she said, Hawaii News Now reported.

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