UHPA signs partial
a pay increase
But the professors' union
does want the state to pay a
bigger share of health costs
Facing a year with little extra money for pay raises, public employee unions are hoping to at least get the state to pay a little more for health insurance.
Yesterday, for instance, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly took the unprecedented action of signing a "partial contract" that acknowledges there is no money for pay raises this year but reserves the right to settle other labor issues.
The contract also permits the state to pay an additional $5 million a year for increased health costs.
"Never has this been done, for a public union to have this full, two-year agreement for a portion of the contract while another portion of the contract, salaries, is left to negotiations," J.N. Musto, UHPA executive director, said during a news conference in Gov. Linda Lingle's office.
Lingle said the Hawaii State Teachers Association also was close to agreeing to its own version of a partial contract, but a spokesman for Lingle said no details were available yesterday.
Lingle did say the increased health fund costs were expected to add at least $22 million to $25 million to the state's two-year budget.
Those funds already have been included in the state budget, according to Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Ways and Means Committee chairman.
None of the big state public employee unions will get a pay raise this year, Lingle said, because the state does not have enough money for pay increases.
She said the switch in the state health fund plans has "driven costs up dramatically for all parties" and that the state retirement fund contributions are estimated to increase to $250 million from $180 million in the next two years.
In previous years, Lingle said, the state was able to afford pay raises by taking excess money contributed to the retirement system.
"Now every state, including this one, because of declines in the stock market, has no excess earnings that you can drain," Lingle said.
The last round of public worker pay increases, Lingle said, cost the state $300 million.
Officials of the United Public Workers and HSTA did not return calls regarding the status of their bargaining with the state.
Russell Okata, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director, however, said his union was not close to agreement with the state on a new contract, but he still expected that the administration would fund the new health-fund increases because it had agreed to do it for UHPA and the money was already included in the budget.
Okata said the HGEA had been asked by the state to forgo "service step time" or seniority pay increases at the same time they were not getting a pay raise.
"We are still far apart," Okata said.
As for the health-fund payments, Okata said the union expects that the state will pay some portion of it.
In past agreements the state has paid 60 percent of the health-fund costs, but since the new health-fund plan raises the total costs, the state now has to pay more.
"I am always an optimistic person," Okata said.
"I think Gov. Lingle would want to treat her employees equally, especially in the case of health-fund benefits," he said.
University of Hawaii