HSTA, state toThe Hawaii State Teachers Association's 52 board members voted unanimously yesterday to authorize the union's negotiating team to go back to the bargaining table Tuesday.
They disagree on whether the
teachers' bonuses should be
paid for 1 year or 2
By Rod Antone
The meeting will be the first time both groups have met face to face since a three-week teachers strike was settled in April.
The two sides appear to be far apart in resolving a dispute over bonuses that has kept the contract from being signed.
"I think the fact that the HSTA is willing to meet and negotiate that matter is a wonderful recognition that the language was not clear," said state chief negotiator Davis Yogi yesterday. "Both parties need to move forward."
But the HSTA negotiators called the state's last proposal "insulting," and said yesterday it is not likely an agreement can be reached Tuesday.
Union chief negotiator Joan Husted said the state's latest proposal contained some "very unpleasant parts," while union president Karen Ginoza described it as a "cynical offer."
"This offer asks us to take the pay differential off the table and negotiate it as a separate item," said Ginoza. "In essence, the state is asking us to trust that everything will work itself out. With the long history on this contract, how can teachers trust the state's negotiator to negotiate in good faith after all that has happened?"
In dispute is whether a 3 percent salary bonus to teachers with professional diplomas or master's degrees should be paid for one year or two years. About 57 percent of the HSTA's membership -- 7,300 teachers -- would qualify for the bonuses, costing the state an estimated $20 million over two years.
Cayetano issued a written statement through a spokeswoman yesterday. The governor said there is "nothing cynical or unreasonable about the state's actions."
The governor said he has offered the HSTA three alternatives to settle the dispute, including increasing the expected $6.7 million in bonuses over one year to $9.7 million.
Cayetano said that "it must be remembered that this bonus was only part of the best contract ever offered by the state."
Ginoza said the HSTA offered to "enact everything in the settlement while continuing to negotiate the second year of the pay differential," and that if a settlement could not be reached, "the parties would be able to seek the help of an impartial adjudicator."
There is pressure to get the bonus issue settled before August 23, when schools resume classes. Teachers are concerned that after going through a 19-day strike in April, the possibility exists that they may have to hold picket signs once more.
Husted said she understands that teachers do not want to endure long, hot days holding signs again, but she warns that it may come down to that.
"If you don't strike and the state says it won't bargain, are you saying that you'll give up your pay raises until a new governor comes in?" said Husted. "Pretty simple. I mean, what are the alternatives you are willing to take a look at?
"It really is a rock and a hard place," she added.
"I want to go back to work, but it is frustrating. A deal is a deal," said Leilehua High School teacher Chucky Viernes. "I think the governor made a mistake. He should have done his own research, then they wouldn't have this problem."
"We already had six teachers go back to the mainland, four because they said they could get better-paying jobs elsewhere," said Kealakehe High School teacher Danny Garcia, who adds that he could have used the pay raise to buy baby supplies for his newborn daughter.
Teachers were supposed to get bonuses, retroactive pay and their pay raises in their July 5 checks. The next paychecks are due Friday, and it appears the teachers are likely to go at least another month without their bonuses and pay raises.
The HSTA plans to ask the opinions of all its members on August 6 in a series of meetings aimed at updating members and getting feedback on what they want the union to do. Kauai's HSTA board director and Kapaa High School teacher Shirley French said she already asked that question of her teachers before she left for the meeting on Oahu.
"A majority of them, they just want the contract to be what they voted for, and I don't know what it's going to take to do that," said French. "This is what we voted on, this is what the parties agreed to, it was in writing."
"I mean you can't say you didn't know if it's in writing."