Rally seeks better pay for Maui Health workers
November 16, 2022, 9:48 PM HST
* Updated November 17, 5:10 AM
Rallying health care workers want “fair wages”
Employees with Maui Health System staged a rally along Kaʻahumanu Avenue on Wednesday to bring attention to their call for fair wages.
MHS employees with the United Nurses and Health Care Employees of Hawaiʻi are in negotiations for a wage increase with hospital management. The two sides are meeting again on Thursday, Nov. 17 for their next mediation.
“This is not a strike or informational picket,” organizers said. Instead, they called the gathering a “rally” for better pay. The union says an increase in pay to that acknowledges Hawaiʻi’s high cost of living, will help recruit and retain vital staff to support work-life balance and quality patient care.
“MHS employees are members of the Maui community who have made tremendous sacrifices during the pandemic to protect and care for our patients. MHS is the only hospital system on Maui. The community relies on us for everything from routine care to life-saving treatments. Yet, it’s become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain vital staff. We continue to see workers leaving MHS, often to work at other hospitals or clinics for higher wages,” the union said in a media release.
Maui Health: recruiting is an ongoing industry issue
Maui Health responded to Maui Now’s request for comment saying they are continuing good faith negotiations with the United Nurses Association of California union.
“Negotiations with UNAC have been going well and we appreciate our professional, collaborative relationship with our union partners. We are working on a fair, equitable agreement that will hopefully be resolved soon,” said Maui Health spokesperson Tracy Dallarda.
According to Dallarda, Maui Health’s team has been working on recruiting health care professionals through ongoing job fairs, marketing efforts, and building partnerships with local schools. “Our goal is to hire Maui health care workers to provide care for Maui residents and visitors,” she said.
She did however call the recruitment of health care workers “an ongoing industry challenge,” and pointed to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story published Tuesday: “Hawaiʻi’s shortage of health care workers worsens.”
“It provides statistical reporting on the number of job vacancies within health care facilities across Hawaiʻi just as the patient census and complexity of health care needs continue to grow. In fact, this is not only a statewide issue, but a well-documented nationwide challenge,” said Dullard.
On July 18, 2022, Health and Human Services posted a report on state hospital staffing levels across the country in which Hawaiʻi hospitals were ranked number seven in the country facing critical staffing shortages, with an expectation the shortage will persist. “This is not a surprise. Even prior to the pandemic, Hawaiʻi had a significant deficit of health care professionals. The pandemic has only exacerbated this shortage,” she said.
High cost of living challenges
The union, which represents 900 employees of the Maui Health System, referenced a recent Hawaiʻi News Now article saying nurses in Hawaiʻi earn the lowest salaries in the nation when the high cost of living is factored in.
“Although Hawaiʻi pays the second-highest health care worker salaries in the country, the high cost of living further challenges the ability to recruit and retain employees,” said Dallarda. “These complex issues remain a challenge and it will take collaboration with colleagues throughout the health care industry and the state to provide pathways to solutions.”
Maui Health vowed to continue to meet and collaborate with union partners “to work in earnest towards a fair agreement” for health care professionals.
Maui and Lānaʻi workers represented by the union include registered nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, speech/language pathologists, MRI, imaging, and mammography technicians, financial counselors and admitting clerks.