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Friday, December 22, 2000

Fact finding
is next in teacher
pay deadlock

Federal mediation efforts
end, and both sides say they
have a clearer picture

By Pat Omandam

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board is expected to appoint a fact-finding panel by Wednesday in the next step to avert a possible teachers' strike.

Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator, said an attempt to resolve the contract talks through federal mediation officially ended yesterday after 15 days. While the mediation did not produce an agreement, both sides have a clearer understanding of each other's priorities, which was beneficial, he said.

"I feel better having gone through mediation, that I understand the teacher's objections," Yogi said.

Yogi said yesterday's end date for federal mediation was a statutory deadline.

The parties will continue to talk as they prepare for the hearing before the appointed labor board panel.

Labor board executive director Valri Lei Kunimoto said the board has three working days from today to appoint a panel, which would then have 10 days to hold a hearing and draft a recommendation to resolve the impasse.

Once those recommendations are released, both parties have five working days to agree to the proposal. If they do, they enter binding arbitration.

If not, Kunimoto said, the next step is a 60-day cooling off period in which the teachers' union could issue a strike notice, making a strike possible sometime in March.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is seeking a raise of 22 percent over four years.

The state has offered a 9 percent pay raise in the last two years of a four-year deal.

Gov. Ben Cayetano did not include funding for any union pay raises in his $16.3 billion budget proposal this week.

The HSTA offices were closed for the Christmas holiday, and union officials could not be reached for comment.

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