Prison guards file complaint against the State

Prison guards file complaint against the State
Richard Ahyo
Richard Ahyo

By Tim Sakahara bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Kulani Prison on the Big Island closed it sent a ripple effect through the Department of Public Safety allowing senior prison guards to bump lower workers. Now laid off and demoted employees have filed a grievance claiming the state violated labor rules.

They're used to being the protectors. Now prison guards say they need protection from the state saying they weren't given proper time to make life changing decisions.

Roslyn Murakane was a guard at Hawaii Community Correctional Center for nine years but was bumped by a guard from Kulani Correctional Facility. She says she was given 90 minutes to decide if she'd be willing to take a different position and move to another island. It's a big decision with four kids and a husband who had a stroke.

"I would have gone home and spoke to my husband and seen if he would have been able to make the move and make a better understanding as far as the future for myself and my family," testified Murakane, before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

But without time Murakane chose to stay on the Big Island. Now she's getting laid off.

Then there are people like Richard Ahyo who was a sergeant at Kulani Prison when it closed.

"You've been secure for 24 years and you think you're doing good and all of the sudden your job is abolished. You think well how am I going to survive? If I don't have a job how am I going to take this to my family? That's just one paycheck away from being homeless," said Ahyo.

He says the only way to guarantee a job was to accept a demotion. So he took it. Now he and others are mad at how the state handled the situation. They say it could have been given more time, especially since the guards are still working at Kulani even though all the inmates were transferred in mid September.

"There were a lot of unanswered questions for the people that make those lifetime decisions," said Ahyo.

During the hearing the Deputy Attorney General arguing the case said demoted workers still keep their exact same pay and benefits. As for the employee bumping, that's in the union contract that was agreed to by the workers and the state is only doing this out of economic necessity.

The hearing will continue Tuesday. The Hawaii Labor Relations Board could decide to give the workers their old jobs back or they could decide to take no action.