NEGOTIATING GOVERNMENT WORKER CONTRACTS
Mayor criticizes state's worker contract proposal
He says that he is willing to offer raises of 4 percent
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is calling the state's offer of pay raises of 2 percent a year for government workers a "slap in the face."
Hannemann told the Star-Bulletin he is willing to offer raises of 4 percent to city workers.
"There's no way the state is going to get by with 2 percent. I can tell you that right now. That's a real slap in the face," Hannemann said in an interview, noting the "huge" state budget surplus.
The state is in contract negotiations with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents more than 40,000 state and county government white-collar workers.
The two sides are simultaneously concluding an arbitrated hearing while continuing to negotiate in hopes of reaching a deal before the arbitrator reaches a decision. The HGEA is the largest union in the state.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Marie Laderta, human resources and collective-bargaining director, declined to comment on Hannemann's statement.
"I don't negotiate in the newspapers," Lingle said.
It has been expected that the state would offer government workers raises of 2 percent but that the HGEA could get higher increases because of binding arbitration.
Hannemann said offering raises of 4 percent a year for two years is "a recognition of reality."
"Too many times, chief executives play games, and that creates morale problems," he said.
Hannemann added that the negotiators should take into account that both the state and the county have surpluses.
"The state has a surplus; we have a modest surplus. How do you say to the employees, 'You don't deserve a raise'?" said Hannemann, whose mayoral position is nonpartisan but who traditionally has been aligned with the Democratic Party.
Lingle, a Republican, did say Hannemann has not officially objected to the state's negotiations. Under the state collective-bargaining laws, the state is the lead negotiator and controls the negotiations with five votes to the four votes for the counties.
"I haven't heard any objections from the city about how we are conducting the negotiations. The state takes the lead, but we take into consideration the impact it has on the counties," Lingle said.
Ted Hong, who is representing the employers on the three-member arbitration panel, called Hannemann's 4 percent offer "a little bit of a surprise."
Once the arbitration panel comes in with a settlement, it must be approved by the Legislature.
Yesterday, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said Hannemann's comments could undermine the negotiations.
"One of the dangers in what the mayor is doing is that for the collective-bargaining process to work, it has to work as it was intended," said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). "I believe we can have our own opinions, but I can't understand why he would be undermining his negotiators. If it is his intention to break ranks, then that is what he should do."
Lingle, however, is arguing that it is "simplistic" to view the contract costs just in terms of the wage settlement. When salaries go up, the costs for overtime, retirement and health care also rise, she said.
"We are trying to be fair and not politicize it," Lingle said.