State employees approve contract by overwhelming majority

Ivy Pescador
Ivy Pescador
Jerome Murakami
Jerome Murakami

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  The ballots have been counted, and the results are in.  After three days of voting, members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) approved the proposed contract Monday evening.   It calls for pay cuts and furlough days.  It will save the state $204 million.

The results came in just before 7 pm Monday evening, and members decisively passed the contract.  They're broken down by bargaining units.

Unit 2, which has blue collar supervisory employees, had 70 percent accept it.  Unit 3, which has white collar non-supervisory employees, also passed it with 77 percent.  Unit 4, which has white collar supervisory employees, approved the contract at 70 percent.

Unit 8, which has University of Hawaii employees, voted overwhelmingly in favor of it, 95 percent. Unit 9, which represents registered nurses, passed it, with 60 percent.  And Unit 13, which has profession and scientific employees, approved the contract at 75 percent.

Those who voted Monday say they had a feeling the contract would get ratified.

This is the epicenter of HGEA's contract quagmire.  A team counted votes from all the counties represented by the union.

"Looking forward to the end of the stress of not knowing," said Ivy Pescador, a City and County of Honolulu employee who works in the Evironmental Services Division.

Monday evening, 13,758 of 18,009 members voted to ratify the contract.  That's 76.4 percent of those who voted. HGEA represents more than 29,000 members.

"I think it's fair," said Pescador. "Everybody got to help bear the burden."

But some feel like they didn't have much of a choice.

"Most people think it's forced on them already and a lot of people don't want to lose their jobs so they're hoping that they don't," said Jerome Murakami, a state employee who works with special needs children at the Department of Education.

In a statement, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said, this shows "public employees are willing to do their share and help our state with its budget challenges."

Although this is a two-year contract, members realize they're not out of the woods quite yet.

"But it doesn't say that because we're going to ratify this, that we're going to have our jobs," said Murakami.  "They're still thinking about more cuts."

If the economy doesn't improve, that's exactly what the governor alluded to last week.

"It tends to send us back to the one thing everybody agrees under the law that we can do which is to lay people off," said Gov. Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii, last Thursday. "And that has not been our first choice but it sometimes becomes the only choice."

HGEA hopes that does not happen.

"It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to do what they can to prevent further job losses and greater impacts to the public services that our community relies upon," said Perreira, in a statement.

Despite a new contract, many are already looking to scale back this holiday season.

"The economy is slow as it is really, they don't expect it to get up just like that," said Murakami. "It's going to take a while."

The season of giving is turning out to be the season of surviving.

Again, members in six out of seven bargaining units voted to ratify the contract. Overall, more than 75 percent voted in favor of it.

One group, Unit 6 which represents educational officers, is outstanding.  They have until Tuesday afternoon to vote.  Results should come in later that evening.