Thursday, April 29, 2004

Teachers and their supporters rallied in front of the state Capitol yesterday afternoon to bring attention to HSTA's contract talks with the state. A settlement was announced late last night.


The proposed raise for the
teachers' 2003-05 contract comes
in time for legislative approval

State negotiators and the union for Hawaii's 13,000 public school teachers reached a tentative deal last night on a two-year contract that ends in June 2005.

"We feel we have an agreement that is affordable ... and fair to the teachers," said Gov. Linda Lingle, who arrived at the Hawaii State Teachers Association's offices just minutes before the deal was announced at 11:25 p.m. The announcement came after more than 10 hours of federally mediated talks.

Officials declined to disclose details of the settlement, saying that the agreement will be brought to the teachers before it is released to the public.

But both Lingle and HSTA President Roger Takabayashi called the deal fiscally manageable.

"I'm confident," Lingle said, "we'll be able to absorb this particular settlement."

The union and state had been in mediation over the 2003-05 contract for more than three weeks.

Both sides were hurrying to reach an agreement by tomorrow -- the deadline to submit legislation to pay for the raises.

The HSTA's board will meet tonight to go over the wage increase. HSTA's members will likely hold a ratification vote in early May, said HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted.

Talks began at about 1 p.m. yesterday at HSTA headquarters in Moanalua, and went into the night with few breaks.

"We feel very good," said Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, who attended the negotiations. "We're very pleased about what we have today."

The only topic on the table was salary, since the rest of the contract had already been settled.

The state's last offer amounted to a 4.1 percent raise this fall. That was an improvement from earlier state offers of no raise for the first year and a 1 percent raise for the second year of a two-year contract.

The union had asked for a 5 percent raise retroactive for the 2003-2004 school year and another 5 percent for the 2004-05 year. The plan would have cost the state $80 million.

The current teachers' average salary is $44,306. Starting teachers make $34,295 a year.

The Senate Democratic Caucus called on the Lingle administration Friday to give teachers pay raises comparable to those of other public workers.

Earlier this month, University of Hawaii faculty agreed to a six-year contract that will raise salaries about 31 percent. In March, Hawaii Government Employees Association members were given an 8 percent increase under an arbitrated award.


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