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Thursday, July 20, 2000

University of Hawaii

UH faculty now
vulnerable to
state payroll lag

The faculty union hopes
the end of the injunction
won't affect the checks

By Suzanne Tswei


University of Hawaii faculty members may be getting their paychecks later than usual after a federal court decision this week frees the state to impose a payroll lag across the board.

U.S. District Judge Alan Kay on Tuesday dissolved the preliminary injunction he imposed in 1998 barring the state from delaying paychecks to university faculty, the only state employees who had been exempted from a payroll lag.

In a written decision, Kay said the faculty's labor contract with the state expired June 1999, which means the pay schedule specified in the contract expired also. Kay also granted the state's motion to dismiss the case.

J.N. Musto, faculty union executive director, said the union will be taking the case to court for another injunction if the state tries to delay faculty paychecks.

Musto said some faculty members already are facing a payroll lag because they work nine or 11 months but their salaries are stretched out over 12 months.

Gov. Ben Cayetano, who had called the faculty "self-centered" for seeking to stop the payroll lag, could not be reached for comment.

Alexander Malahoff, president of the faculty union, was optimistic that the state would not delay paychecks to the university's 2,900 faculty members on 10 campuses.

"If the state does it, it would be a foolish thing. Why impose something that amounts to a pay cut when there's a surplus in state funds -- unless it's meant to be punitive?" Malahoff said.

A lag would lead to to loss of faculty as the mainland enjoys a healthy economy and universities across the nation compete for faculty, he said. A pay delay would translate to a two-week pay cut when faculty pay in Hawaii already is about $20,000 to $30,000 below mainland pay, he said.

"We'd be losing good people, and we have to remember (the Manoa campus) is not out of the woods yet with accreditation. We don't want to do anything to jeopardize that," Malahoff said.

Although an accreditation team reaccredited the university last year, it criticized the university for communication, administration, planning and governance problems. An accreditation team will return in 2002.

"I am hoping common sense will prevail. I am hoping for a favorable outcome from the governor," Malahoff said.

The state imposed the payroll lag in 1998 to save $51 million by delaying paychecks until they rolled over into the next fiscal year. The faculty union, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from imposing the lag on the faculty, while other state employees' paychecks were delayed.

The state appealed, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision last year. Other labor unions representing state workers declined to take advantage of the injunction.

State employees used to get their paychecks on the 15th and the end of the month, but the lag gradually changed the dates to the 5th and 20th. As result of the union's challenge to the lag, the state had to develop two payroll systems to keep faculty paychecks on the old pay schedule.

University of Hawaii

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