Firefighters are first for pay hikes as deadline to reach a deal - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Firefighters are first for pay hikes as deadline to reach a deal closes in

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii's firefighters have been awarded pay hikes over the next two years.

But other state unions are up against a deadline to have new bargaining agreements, or risk not getting a raise this year.

An arbitration panel awarded pay increases to members of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association this week. Those raises will likely be a benchmark for other government unions that have just a week left to finish contract negotiations.

"When it comes to the amount and the percentage, the first one that comes out sets the stage for all the other units," said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

The firefighter pay increase will be paid mostly by the counties, which has the bulk of the firefighters.

"We just have a small number of firefighters, for instance, at the airport," said Luke. "So the amount of the increase is only equivalent to about a hundred thousand dollars a year."

But there are 13 more bargaining units that are still in contract talks, including the Hawaii State Teachers Association. And those units will want at least the same amount.

"Based on every unit and every employee getting the same type of raises as the firefighters, the estimated amount is going to be a little bit over $70 million," Luke said.

Lawmakers will have to come up with that money in the budget at a time when revenue forecasts are tightening.

"What definitely does not help the situation is the fact that we don't have a lot of dollars to spend," said state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. 

Tokuda said the legislature also has just a week left to pass any fiscal bills, including any union pay raises.

"If the decision isn't made -- whether its through arbitration or agreement -- by next week Friday, then essentially, it's 'come back next session,'" she said.

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