Bill on public-worker transfers draws darts
Public safety officials are hoping their rally will persuade lawmakers not to override Gov. Lingle's veto
About a hundred public safety officials are hoping their numbers at a state Capitol rally yesterday will persuade lawmakers not to override Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of a bill that would expand public employee unions' power.
Senate Bill 1642 would allow a union to negotiate management rights to move workers as needed. Government officials, including police and fire chiefs from all four counties, said the bill would hurt their operations and could jeopardize public safety.
Legislators and union officials contend the bill simply balances the bargaining table between management and unions.
Unions say they want the right to negotiate transfers of public workers, but police and fire officials assert this would disrupt their capabilities to protect the public.
Public safety officials rallied at the state Capitol yesterday to pressure the Legislature not to override Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of Senate Bill 1642, which would let unions negotiate transfers and assignments for workers.
The bill came as a reaction to a 2005 state Supreme Court decision allowing management to set transfer policy. The decision stemmed from a fight that began in 2002 when city officials ordered 13 refuse workers to transfer from Pearl City to the Honolulu base yard as part of a move to automate trash pickup. The Hawaii Labor Relations Board ruled that the transfers could not occur without the consent of, or negotiation with, the United Workers union.
The bill would preserve bargaining rights that might have been taken away by the Supreme Court decision, said Nora Nomura, legislative officer for the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
"We don't want to see parts of our contract invalidated as a result of this decision," Nomura said. "We want a level playing field, and that is what this bill is trying to accomplish."
For three years the Legislature has passed a bill to give the unions back their power, and Lingle has vetoed it each time.
Now, public officials worry that the Democratic-controlled Legislature will overturn Lingle's veto.
To override the veto, supporters need the votes of two-thirds of both the House and Senate.
"Some have wanted to override up to 16 bills, and this has been one of the 16," said state Rep. Kirk Caldwell, Democratic leader.
But Caldwell (D, Manoa) added that yesterday's demonstration by more than 75 county and state government officials might make lawmakers think twice. The rally also included county trash collection managers.
"It does have support, and this is the third year it has gone out so it has legs ... but after today's demonstration maybe more people will be asking, Is this something we are not going to override?" Caldwell said.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said she thinks there are enough votes in the Senate for an override but is not sure if the Senate would include it among the bills under override consideration.
"We do have the votes but things can change," Hanabusa said.
During the rally, Robin Chun Carmichel, labor relations chief for the city Human Resources Department, said, "We want to run government more efficiently. The Legislature came down with this bill to prevent us from doing transfers."
"If a union disagrees, we would be precluded from moving (employees)," Carmichel said.
Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa said the police need to be able to direct officers to different locations.
"Especially during an emergency, the police departments need to be able to assign officers and dispatchers when and where they are needed.
"Requiring negotiation for the assignment of personnel due to understaffing from employees on vacation, sick leave, court or training will greatly impact 911 emergency response times," Correa said.
Lawmakers have until next Thursday to override the bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.