Queen's nurses talks collapse

Nurses from Queen’s Medical Center picket along Punchbowl Street.

Talks between the nurses and management at the state’s largest hospital broke off again last night with no agreement reached. While the nurses accepted the latest wage proposal from Queen’s Medical Center — publicized in newspaper ads — the primary sticking point continues to be the hospital’s sick leave control system known as PTO, or “paid time off.”

“We were dismayed at Queen’s stubborn refusal to even consider compromise on the PTO issue,” said nurse negotiator Bill Richter. “The 35 HNA nurses who were present unanimously concluded that the Hospital, for whatever reasons, had no intention of reaching an agreement tonight.”

The PTO system requires nurses to use vacation time for a portion of the hours taken off sick. Hospital management has asserted that nurses have been abusing sick leave privileges.

The Hawaii Nurses’ Association is still bristling over the Queen’s newspaper ad, which it said was intended to embarrass striking nurses.

“Frankly, we are amazed at this blatant showing of the corporate mentality, lack of truthfulness, and unawareness of nursing issues that today’s full-page ads [demonstrate],” said Sue Scheider, Director of the Hawaii Nurses’ Association Collective Bargaining Organization. “Let’s be real — if Queen’s were really aiming its message at its Registered Nurses, it would be conveying the message at the bargaining table instead of in full-page newspaper ads costing many thousands of dollars.”

Nurses were earlier upset by an offer to fly in the families of replacement nurses from the Mainland for the Christmas holiday.

As nursing strikes at three Honolulu hospitals near their fourth week, the voices of discontent are getting louder. On Thursday, Queen’s Medical Center management circumvented the negotiation process by publicizing its latest proposed wage increase in a full-page ad run in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser. And the president of the medical staff at St. Francis Medical Center broke the silence there by directly urging nurses and hospital management to come to an agreement.

At St. Francis, there have been no formal negotiations since the nurses hit the picket lines on Dec. 2. At, Kuakini negotiations are ongoing, with the last meeting on Dec. 18 netting some progress. Overall, more than 1,300 nurses are on strike: over 800 at Queen’s, over 300 at St. Francis, and over 200 at Kuakini.

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