UPW approves drug testing
The focus will be on rehabilitation under the easily approved two-year union pact
The union that represents blue-collar state and county workers overwhelmingly approved a two-year contract that includes random and reasonable suspicion drug testing for all 12,000 United Public Workers members.
About 95 percent of the members voted in favor of the contract, which gives them a 10.3 percent raise over two years.
The UPW contract ratification announcement came two days after a Hawaii State Teachers Association vote on a contract for public school teachers that includes setting up random drug tests.
The HSTA vote was too close to announce, and the union is waiting to count 1,200 absentee ballots on Wednesday before it can say whether the contract is approved or rejected.
Gov. Linda Lingle commended the UPW for passing a contract with a drug testing policy, adding that it's a step toward creating a safer workplace and helping those few who do have an alcohol or drug problem.
"You are true union leaders," Lingle said to UPW representatives at a news conference yesterday in her office.
Dayton Nakanelua, state director of UPW, said random testing is a step to solving drug problems that exist in homes and communities.
"Our thrust and focus is on rehabilitation," he said, adding that an employee who tests positive will be placed in a drug rehabilitation program.
UPW member Paul Billand supports the contract.
"I think it's terrific," he said. "The people out there that are using, they need help."
The only disagreement was about which departments should be tested, said Matthew Manu, chairman of bargaining unit 1, which has 9,000 employees.
"We all agreed for everybody to be tested," he said. "It was the only democratic way to do it."
About 2,800 UPW members, including correctional officers, are already required to submit to random drug tests under a 2005 contract. The new contract adds the rest of the union workers to the random drug test policy.
Drug tests cost about $35 to $45 each, and will be paid for by the state, Nakanelua said.
"False positives" in drug tests are prevented by a second confirmation test that employees can request, Nakanelua said.
About 10 percent of the union workers will be tested for alcohol, and 25 percent will be tested for controlled substances, he said.
The UPW contract will cost the state $45 million.
Members will receive a 4 percent raise on July 1 and in 2008. They also will receive two smaller increases of 1.16 percent and 1.14 percent in early 2008 and 2009, respectively. The contract includes overtime meal allowances, travel per diem and a night differential.