Friday, March 23, 2001

Teachers get
early hearing
on strike

Tuesday's hearing before the
Labor Relations Board could clear
the way for the walkout
on April 5

By Crystal Kua
and Helen Altonn

A teacher's strike on April 5 is still a possibility after the Hawaii Labor Relations Board agreed today to speed up proceedings on state complaints that could have postponed a walkout.

Two unfair labor practice complaints filed against the union by the state could delay the strike start if they are not resolved by the board by April 5. But the labor board granted a motion this morning by the Hawaii State Teachers Association to expedite the process to resolve the complaints.

The board, which originally was to hold a hearing on the complaints on April 5, will now hear the case on Tuesday.

Board chairman Brian Nakamura said the board would work as expeditiously as possible to make a decision after hearing the case.

The board has also agreed to hear both complaints in a consolidated hearing. The first complaint says the HSTA has not been bargaining in good faith while the second complaint deals with instructions by the union to photograph any teacher who crosses the picket line.

If the board rules in favor of the state, the strike could still be delayed.

Meanwhile, negotiators for the teachers' union and the state could go back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

Federal Mediator Ken Kawamoto said he asked the HSTA and the state to resume bargaining to try to avoid a strike.

Kawamoto, who led earlier talks between the parties, said he asked them to meet, probably Wednesday. "So far, no one's told me no."

"We'll meet anywhere, any time," said HSTA executive director Joan Husted. "We already offered to go to mediation. We certainly will take him up on his offer."

Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator, couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

The HSTA yesterday delivered the required notice of its intention to strike on April 5 to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, Gov. Ben Cayetano and the Board of Education.

HSTA President Karen Ginoza said the union is continuing its campaign to gain support for a pay raise.

Teachers wearing T-shirts with slogans such as "Got pay raises?" have been making the rounds at the state Capitol to lobby lawmakers, who are putting together the state budget for the next two years.

The union is suggesting that a salary increase for its 13,000 members could be paid for with a hike in the general excise tax, offset by a tax credit on food and medicine.

Ginoza said a 1 percent hike could bring in an additional $350 million. A tax credit would erase $200 million, leaving the state with $150 million for pay raises.

Teachers are asking for a 22 percent pay raise.

The state is offering a 20 percent raise for beginning teachers and a 10 percent raise for the most experienced teachers, which averages out to about 12 percent.

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