This Friday, no furloughs, but cuts

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new fiscal year begins Friday, and with it, a new budget that includes five percent pay cuts for tens of thousands of state workers, from the governor on down.

While some of those cuts are new, some of them are extensions of previous cuts, and in the case of teachers, a cut made against the union's will.

According to the governor's office, the budget approved by the legislature includes the temporary pay cut. But many employees will also have to pay for half of the cost of health benefits.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association ratified a contract with those cuts last April. However, HGEA Unit 9, professional nurses, did not ratify the contract. Neither did United Public Workers units 1 and 10. According to the governor's office, those units will receive wage and benefits at the same levels received from June 30, 2009, until a new agreement is reached.

In the case of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Gov. Abercrombie has said the state will implement the pay cut and the hike in health car costs unilaterally.

"He has always been a big union supporter and got support of all the unions for his election to governor," said labor attorney Michael Nauyokas, who said he voted for Abercrombie. "And now to discontinue the talks and just say this is the last, best and final (offer) is a pretty aggressive move for a liberal Democratic governor against the unions.

"If these teachers were subject to the federal labor law -- which they're not, they're subject to the state labor law -- upon an impasse in negotiations, the employer would be able to implement the last, best and final offer," Nauyokas said.

What could the HSTA do?

"They could strike," Nauyokas said. "They would probably have to take a strike vote first, so its unlikely that would happen Friday. that would probably happen sometime later this summer. They can file a prohibited practice charge with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, and they can go to state circuit court to try to enjoin the unilateral implementation of the new terms."

According to Nauyokas, the union could take any or all of those three options, or none at all. The HSTA has stated that it remains committed to negotiations.

Meantime, the five percent pay cuts were also extended another two years for the governor, lieutenant governor, department heads, judges and lawmakers. They also would pay half of their health insurance premiums.

In a statement, Gov. Abercrombie said, "while some believe this is not enough and others feel it is too much, I believe these targets are a reasonable basis that recognizes the value of public employee efforts while living within our means."

Related story: HSTA, State hit snag on contract talks

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