By Sean Ibara
MANOA (KHNL) - New details emerged Friday in the University of Hawaii contract negotiations, a day after the union rejected the state's offer.
News that the majority of faculty members overwhelmingly rejected the contract was no surprise to the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.
"The members, the responses, and the phone calls and the e-mails we've been getting have been very, very positive. They feel good about the decision they made", said UHPA Associate Executive Director Kristeen Hanselman.
Now if the State does decide to impose its "last best final offer" on the faculty union, UHPA could do one of two things: go to court and force the State to continue to keep its current contract in effect, or it could call for a strike vote which, would need to be approved by a majority of its members.
"That's always a choice that is last resort. That is not something faculty take lightly, they take it seriously, and the preferred method of decision-making is between the parties at the bargaining table", said Hanselman.
On the other hand, the University says its priority is with the students and that they also wanted to give faculty a fair contract.
"To try to do the best we can for the students given the very difficult budget circumstances that we're under", said Universty of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood.
She adds that reducing the salary of faculty members was a difficult choice.
"Having to ask for a take back was something that was very difficult and regrettable so I certainly hope we can find a resolution that does not involve a strike".
The proposal that was voted down included a 5-percent salary reduction in each of the next two years. It also included 13 days of paid leave which did not include instructional days. And President Greenwood promised that there would be no payoffs of tenured or tenure track faculty through the end of fiscal year 2011.
But with the higher enrollment at its flagship Manoa campus, the faculty union says that the workload of its professors is taking its toll.
"Most of our members have significantly increased workloads due to the 4% cutbacks that have already taken place", said Hanselman.
But President Greenwood is hopeful for a mutual solution. "If we can't keep this institution viable, if we're not able to support the academic programs and the research programs, we will not be able to have the same state 20 years from now.
UHPA also supported a half percent increase in the general excise tax, but Governor Lingle has said she's against any tax increases.