All parties are smiling about HGEA contract
'4 and 4' has HGEA, state sharing aloha spirit
Both Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hannemann praised a contract settlement with the state's largest government union, agreeing that the deal was fair and affordable.
Under the pact with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, thousands of state and county workers would get pay raises of 4 percent this year and another 4 percent next year.
The collective-bargaining agreement will cost the state and counties an extra $183.2 million.
The deal is subject to ratification by HGEA members.
Government and union leaders are in agreement that a new Hawaii Government Employees Association wage package is both fair and affordable.
The settlement, announced yesterday in a joint news conference with Gov. Linda Lingle and Russell Okata, HGEA executive director, will give HGEA members pay raises of 4 percent in July and another 4 percent in July 2008. Also, the more than 26,000 state and county workers will get step or seniority increases, which according to state officials could be worth an additional 1.5 percent.
Total cost of the new contract over two years is $183.2 million, according to Lingle's office.
The plan was immediately hailed by other government leaders.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who said last month that he was already budgeting for 4 percent pay raises for each of the two years, called the settlement fair.
"I knew that if you came forward with a good-faith effort that was fair, there would be no need to go into arbitration," Hannemann said.
Since 2000 the state and the HGEA had not been able to agree to a new contract. By law the matter was turned over to an arbitration panel, which resulted in a settlement favorable to the HGEA.
The union received an arbitrated award of 8 percent over two years starting in 2004. The HGEA's settlement came on the heels of a 14.5 percent increase won for a 1999-2002 contract that was awarded in 2000.
Okata said yesterday the deal shows that while he and Lingle "may have political differences, this contract shows that Hawaii is a special place were we can work together."
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa called the wage deal "a great step, showing they were able to negotiate versus resorting to arbitration."
Both Hanabusa and House Speaker Calvin Say said the wage settlement will allow the Legislature's budget committees to plug the raises into the state financial plan.
"We had about that much, 4 and 4, so I am happy for them," Say said.
Randy Perreira, HGEA deputy executive director, said that while the state was officially offering raises of only 2 percent and the union had 7.5 percent on the table, he knew that raises of 4 and 4 percent were likely.
"The mayors said they were budgeting 4 percent, but we were aware thanks to the governor's representative that the governor had done the same and while it wasn't publicized, we knew they had money in the financial plan," Perreira said.
The contract still needs to be ratified by the union's members, a process that could be completed by April 17, he said.
Two other unions -- the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the United Public Workers -- are still negotiating with the state over their pay raises. The registered professional nurses' bargaining unit of the HGEA is involved in a separate arbitration process to resolve an impasse in their discussions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.