UH faculty union worried about potential for drastic cost-cutting measures

UH faculty union worried about potential for drastic cost-cutting measures
The Board of Regents will consider a proposal on Thursday to allow the University of Hawaii administration to take drastic steps to reduce operating costs and expenses. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the University of Hawaii facing a potentially steep decline in tuition revenue and general fund appropriations from the state, the faculty union is worried that drastic cost-saving decisions may be made without input from its members.

The Board of Regents will meet on July 16 to discuss the university’s outlook.

And BOR Chair Benjamin Kudo wants the board to approve a resolution and a letter to Gov. David Ige about ways to deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic.

That’s concerning the faculty union.

"We weren't able to provide input into the process," said Christian Fern, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

“Everyone keeps talking about (how) we’re in the same canoe. Well, in this situation, I felt like the canoe left with UHPA and the faculty perhaps not even at the beach.”

UHPA represents roughly 3,500 faculty members. After transitioning to online learning in March, members are now preparing for classes on campus starting next month.

The resolution would authorize the UH administration to use whatever means available to reduce operating costs and expenses, including job cuts, furloughs and pay reductions.

Ige said he has had several extensive discussions with UH President David Lassner.

"I do support flexibility for him in dealing with the budget shortfall, and so we've talked about what we believe the university's allocation of savings that they would need to generate," Ige said.

The board will also consider a letter asking the governor to start negotiations with the relevant public worker unions to defer previously approved pay increases and adjustments.

"We will be negotiating with all of the public employee unions to talk about the impact of the revenue shortfall and see if we can get agreement on what's the best way forward," Ige said.

The Board of Regents virtual meeting starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Lassner declined to comment until after the board’s decision.

Hawaii News Now reached out to Kudo, but did not receive a response.

The faculty union believes that UHPA should be included in the process, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

“I don’t think that the faculty are opposed to deferring pay increases. It’s something they would have to vote on, but we have not been approached by either the state nor the Board of Regents to have that discussion,” said Fern.

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