Union shows dismay with Kaiser

WAILUKU – Around 150 Kaiser Permanente workers from across Maui held signs in front of the Kaiser Permanente Wailuku Clinic on Thursday in another round of the Unite Here Local 5 union’s “Stop Work and Take Action” rallies.

This was the fourth rally the union has held to show Kaiser its dismay over issues, especially staffing and workload problems, said Momi Hai, a union organizer and front desk lead for several of Kaiser’s Maui clinics.

The workers took off without pay and left clinics with low staffing, she added. Workers in the affected union include appointment receptionists, pharmacy technicians and licensed practical nurses. It was the union’s largest turnout, Hai added.

In a email statement, Kaiser Permanente said its Kihei clinic was the only one affected with closure, and it was closed because staff members were deployed to other facilities.

The Maui Lani Medical Office, Wailuku Medical Office, Lahaina Clinic, Wailuku Behavioral Health Office and Maui Lani Elua (physical therapy only) were all open Thursday.

Patients with Thursday appointments at clinics with low staffing were contacted and had the option of moving their appointments to another clinic or rescheduling on another day, Kaiser said.

The company statement said it is negotiating in good faith with Local 5, and it believes the best way to reach agreement on a new contract is at the bargaining table.

“We respect and value our talented and caring employees. We remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement with Local 5 that is good for our employees while allowing us to be competitive in the marketplace,” the statement added.

Hai said Kaiser isn’t budging in negotiations, despite the union’s urging of increasing staffing and hiring replacements when employees leave the company.

“Patient care is most important” and is jeopardized when staff is low and employees have to take on more tasks, she said.

“We love our job. That’s why we work many years over here,” she said. “The company has to hire.”

Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott said in an email that the company has made five separate requests in the last 10 weeks to meet with Local 5 and has offered dozens of available dates for negotiation sessions. But the union has not responded, she said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

* Kaiser picketing. Momi Hai, a union organizer and front desk lead for several of Kaiser Permanente Maui clinics, wanted to clarify a statement in a story on Page A4 on Friday about Unite Here Local 5 union’s “Stop Work and Take Action” rallies.

“The company has not hired replacements when employees leave their positions (i.e. retire, promoted to another position, forced to relocate or leave the company), causing staffing and workload issues which compromises patient care,” she said.