Monday’s Talks Break Down Between UPW and Maui Health, Negotiations To Resume on March 14
Talks between United Public Worker employees and Maui Health resumed on Monday, March 6, but broke down after just two hours.
Nearly 500 workers represented by the United Public Workers AFSCME, Local 646, AFL-CIO have been on strike since Feb. 22, 2023, seeking a new contract with better wages.
The striking workers include nurses aides, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, cooks and other workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lānaʻi Community Hospital.
“We are deeply disappointed and frustrated by today’s events,” said State Director Kalani Werner. “The lack of respect was discouraging. Maui Health System arrived an hour late for our meeting and then walked away after just two hours of discussion.”
The next scheduled negotiation is set for Tuesday, March 14, 2023, however, UPW reports it has invited Maui Health System to meet sooner.
“There have been substantial efforts at the bargaining table for months to reach a fair, equitable agreement,” said representatives with Maui Health.
Since August 2022, there have reportedly been three separate instances where Maui Health and UPW have reached a tentative agreement.
“The third tentative agreement for a last, best, and final offer was reached on Feb. 17, 2023, and included substantial increases to the previous two tentative agreements and was highly endorsed by the union’s bargaining committee… Unfortunately, even with the UPW leader’s endorsement of the LBFO, the union members voted it down on Feb. 21,” said a Maui Health spokesperson.
The strike began the next day.
In a press release issued Monday, Werner called the latest setback regarding Monday’s abbreviated negotiations “disheartening,” but said “it only strengthens our resolve to fight for what we deserve.”
“This is a pivotal moment in our fight for fair treatment and compensation; we cannot afford to let it slip away. By standing together and supporting each other, we can send a powerful message that we will not back down until our demands are met,” said Werner.
Maui Health reports that current teams have stepped up to provide extra assistance. The hospital has also deployed additional clinical and non-clinical staffing in an effort to ensure “safe, quality care for patients, with minimal disruptions.”
“We ask that our community continue to support our employees who are still working on the frontline and our brothers and sisters on the picket line. What we all want most is our own expert team members back at work with us and that is what we will continue to work towards,” according to Maui Health.
While requests were made to extend the strike to more entrances at the Maui hospital, there are no immediate plans to do so. In a previous statement Werner said, “UPW takes its responsibility to the Maui community very seriously and will not obstruct emergency vehicles or any individuals seeking emergency care.”
Hospital representatives meantime issued a reminder to the public: “We want to remind our community members – please do not let strike activity deter you from accessing emergency care, or from visiting a loved one in the hospital. If you are experiencing any delays in accessing the hospital, please make that known to Maui Health Security who are on-site at facility entrances to facilitate communication with picketers and/or MPD when it is necessary for emergent medical access.”
Union representatives say the workers are committed to holding the line, and picketing will continue until a fair deal is reached.
“We remain hopeful that Maui Health System will recognize the value of our workers and negotiate in good faith to improve the healthcare system on Maui for the benefit of all,” said Werner.
Maui Health reports it will continue to “bargain in good faith” until a fair agreement is reached. “As an organization we are committed to welcoming and embracing our UPW members back to work whenever they choose to return, with resources available to help in this process. We will continue to do whatever we can to support the health and well-being of our family here at Maui Health.”
“We remain hopeful an agreement will be ratified soon, and our Maui Health team will be whole once again. We look forward to returning to the table, as agreed, on March 14, 2023,” a Maui Health spokesperson said.
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.