HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After listening to hours of legal arguments, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board did not issue a ruling on the Hawaii State Teachers Association's request for temporary relief from pay cuts and other conditions in the new contract imposed by the state. The union had hoped that Wednesday's hearing would give teachers some relief before the board takes up HSTA's prohibited practices complaint next week. But in the end, the three-member panel chose to take the matter under advisement.
HSTA filed a complaint in July after the state unilaterally implemented the new contract. The union later submitted a request for temporary relief from the pay cuts in the contract affecting Hawaii's 12,500 public school teachers. An attorney for the union expressed several concerns, accusing the state of bullying and bargaining in bad faith.
"They seek to blame us. We're not implementing unilateral changes. We're not asserting the right to strike. They're asserting the right to make a unilateral change, therefore the burden is on them," said HSTA attorney Herbert Takahashi.
"The employer not only negotiated in good faith, the employer negotiated to impasse, and it was the union who created the situation," countered deputy attorney general Jim Halvorson.
The contract includes a 1.5% pay cut. That wage reduction, combined with the income lost for directed leave without pay or furlough days, totals a 5% cut. Another change is an increase in the employee medical contribution.
"The threat was if the teachers do not accept the 5% cut and the 50-50 there will be 800 employees, including probationary employees, who will be laid off," said Takahashi.
"This is the threat to the state of Hawaii and the Department of Education - that there's a huge budget shortfall," said Halvorson.
The parties agreed the case is unprecedented. The board finally decided to take the matter under advisement. The members did not indicate when they would issue a ruling.
"This is definitely a distraction for our teachers. Teachers are very concerned because we represent the middle class in the state of Hawaii and all across the country," said HSTA president Wil Okabe.
"It also reflects an unprecedented situation the state of Hawaii finds itself in and has found itself in for the last three years. We don't have the money," said Halvorson.
Earlier in the day, the board allowed the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly to intervene and present arguments since the HSTA case could have an impact on other labor unions and their right to strike.