Abercrombie: No More Money For Nurses

Video Of Heated Exchange Between Governor, Nurses Goes Viral

 UPDATED 8:35 PM HST May 19, 2011
KAHULUI, Hawaii -

A heated discussion between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and some Maui nurses was caught on video.

It's now circulating on the Internet and the exchange has angered the head of the union representing the nurses.

The amateur video was taken Sunday during a public meeting with Abercrombie on Maui.

The governor was responding to a question posed by a Maui Memorial Medical Center nurse about his support for fair wages compared to nurses in the private hospitals.

"Hey, I didn't say that. If you want to take that attitude towards me you can. But I can tell you this. No body is working harder to see that more money comes in for public employees than I am," Abercrombie is seen saying on the video.

Abercrombie got riled explaining how without the Legislature's approval of his budget package, there is no money for public sector nurses, who last month rejected a proposed labor contract that included a 5 percent pay cut.

"I asked the nurses. I asked all the public employees. Where's your leadership? I asked all your leadership to come and testify," Abercrombie is recorded saying on the video.

"The problem is the governor is continuing to lobby for a revenue package that apparently didn't get broad support because it didn't pas the legislature," said Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director.

Perreira said he doesn't blame nurses for feeling they're being treated unfairly when their wages are about 30 percent lower than those in the private sector.

"The truth is the hospital corporation revenue doesn't have anything to do with the general fund, and I think the governor is mixing apples and oranges in trying to suggest to these employees that their actions could have changed the course of outcome," said Perreira.

But the Governor, who had not viewed the video, said he was only trying to get his point across to the nurses about everyone having to make a sacrifice.

"I tried to point out to them that I wasn't elected to try and make a special deal for them and hurt other workers; rather, we're all in this together," said Abercrombie.

Abercrombie said he took offense to the nurses comparing their jobs to other state workers.

A nurse is heard on the video saying, "That cone dropper comes into my ER and I'm going to save their life for 34 percent less than what's out there."

"This is a question of what's an injury to one, is an injury to all and we should all stick together and work together. But their view was the other workers really weren't as good as they were. I took exception to that," said Abercrombie.

Perreira said the HGEA is still waiting for a response from the state and Hawaii Health Systems Corp. for further negotiation meetings.

The 1,561 members of Unit 9 were the only bargaining unit out of seven to reject the proposed contract.

The governor had said the contract would save the state about $124 million over the next two fiscal years.

There is no word on the status of contract talks between the state and public school teachers and blue-collar workers.

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