Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Gay Sibley, a faculty member in the UH English
department, casts her vote at UH yesterday as the
strike vote began. Union negotiators say they
have no choice but to go on strike.

Strike likely under
state’s final offer

The UH faculty union says
several issues remain despite
closer agreement on pay

By Treena Shapiro

The University of Hawaii faculty union and the state are drawing closer in contract negotiations, but unless the state removes "punitive" clauses from its latest proposal, the union will have no choice but to go on strike next month, negotiators said yesterday.

The state issued its final offer Friday, offering 7 percent pay raises over two years with the possibility of an additional 3 percent in merit pay at UH's Manoa, West Oahu and Hilo campuses. For community college faculty, the state has offered a $4,755 pay raise over two years with an additional 1 percent based on merit.

The union has asked for 12 percent in across-the-board increases over the next two years, with an additional 1 percent in merit pay.

"The numbers look close," said Mary Tiles, co-chairwoman of the union's collective bargaining committee. However, she said, several issues still separate the two sides, including loss of health and retirement benefits for employees who don't work the entire year, a reduction in the faculty's share of patent royalties and community college workload.

As the first wave of faculty members cast their strike votes yesterday on the Manoa campus, it appeared that many felt they had been backed into a corner by the state.

Susan Hippensteele would be affected as a third-year law student and a full-time faculty member.

While a strike could prevent her from graduating in May, "it looks like we don't have a choice," she said, calling the latest contract proposal "evidence of the lack of respect and concern for education in this state."

If her graduation is delayed, Hippensteele could be hit with another clause in the contract that prohibits faculty members from being full-time students.

State chief negotiator Davis Yogi said recruiting and retaining faculty is not an issue in these negotiations, since the rate of pay is flexible. "If they really need to recruit someone, they can hire them at the market rate," he said.

Yogi also countered objections that nine- and 11-month instructional employees will lose retirement benefits and health insurance for the part of the year they don't work, instead of continuing to have their salaries prorated over 12 months. Yogi advised the union to look at this issue as a bargaining chip.

"We're willing to bargain and move off of it, and UHPA needs to know that all we need is a five-day payroll lag," Yogi said. The statewide lag, instituted for tax purposes, would push back faculty pay periods by five days and save the university $6 million, he said.

No faculty members voting against a strike agreed to go on the record, but arguments for not striking included economic hardship and concern for the students.

Students at UH's Campus Center yesterday raised numerous concerns about graduating on time and losing credits and tuition, but in general they sympathized with the faculty.

Even though a strike could delay his graduation, senior Maurice Radke said, "I think they're put in a real bad spot, and I think they deserve the money that they're asking for."

Radke added that he wouldn't mind a strike, as long as it didn't last too long. "A week would be good, to give us time to recover," he said.

University spokesman Jim Manke said students would still be obligated to report to class in the event of a strike, but can leave after 10 minutes if no instructor arrives. Although the administration is hopeful a resolution will be reached, letters will be mailed to students next week in anticipation of a strike, Manke said.

The faculty strike vote will continue on all 10 campuses through Wednesday.

The votes will be tallied Friday afternoon and released to the public Saturday after the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly board discusses the results.

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