UH employees will be subject to stricter vaccine mandate than other state workers

The union sent a message to its members saying there were “blindsided again.”
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:41 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A strict new vaccination mandate for all University of Hawaii employees is getting pushback by the faculty union, whose leadership says they weren’t fully consulted.

Under the mandate, all employees will need to be fully vaccinated or get a religious or medical exemption by Jan. 3. UH officials said the vaccine requirement is an important step toward keeping the campus safe and getting back to normal.

“We really do look forward to a return to having as many people back as possible as close to normal as possible in Spring 2022,” said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesperson for the university.

“And we feel like the requirements for employees and for our students, which is now part of their student health clearance requirements, is a big step in getting there.”

Even employees working remotely for the UH system will need to be fully vaccinated.

“I’m sure with that announcement we will have a chance to see more students, more faculty on our campus,” said Saeed Sepasi, a faculty researcher. “It will be a safe place to work for everyone.”

That’s the goal of the university as well.

The mandate is stricter for UH employees than for other state workers, who can choose to test instead.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly said it was caught off guard by the e-mailed announcement. They said there had been conversations between the union and administration, but no official consultation.

“In the consultative process, the employer is supposed to take in our concerns and consider them when they’re implementing any type of mandate that’s going to impact our bargaining unit members,” said UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern.

Meisenzahl said the administration “didn’t mean to blindside anybody.”

“It is something that we’ve been talking we’ve been discussing for quite some time,” he said.

Fern said they are meeting with the administration on Monday for a formal discussion.

According to a survey in summer in which half the faculty answered, about 90% said they were fully vaccinated. UH hopes with those kinds of numbers there won’t have to be disciplinary action when the rules kick in.

Meanwhile, opinions on the new rule vary.

“I decided to get vaccinated, but it was my own personal choice,” said David Haymer, a professor of genetics. “I don’t like the idea that it’s mandated for everyone.”

“Personally, I’m OK with it,” said Benny Au, who works in the IT department. “I’m vaccinated, most of us are. It’s safer that way.”

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