State files complaint on teacher drug tests
Rescinding raises in the new contract is an option for the Lingle administration
The Hawaii State Teachers Association breached its contract by refusing to implement a drug testing program for public school teachers on June 30, the Lingle administration alleges in a complaint filed yesterday.
The state wants the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to order the union to set up random and reasonable-suspicion drug and alcohol tests of teachers as was required by a contract ratified in May 2007, said Marie Laderta, the state's chief negotiator.
HSTA President Roger Takabayashi said the union has been working with the state to come up with drug testing procedures.
"It's unfortunate that the governor has chosen rhetoric over substance. The constitutional issues involved here are serious and require professionalism and a genuine effort to bargain in good faith," he said late yesterday in a written statement.
Takabayashi said the union wants a federal mediator to help resolve differences with the state.
Laderta said the union will have 10 calendar days to respond to the charges brought by the state. The labor board would hold a hearing to decide whether the union is at fault, a board official said.
The state added the drug program as a non-negotiable item to agree to a two-year, $120 million teacher contract approved last year by 61.3 percent of more than 8,000 union members. The contract awarded about 13,000 isle teachers two annual raises of 4 percent.
But education officials and Gov. Linda Lingle have disagreed over who should pay for the drug program. In January the Board of Education voted to reject setting aside $400,000 to pay for annual tests of as many as 3,250 teachers, or one in four employees, saying they did not want to divert money from the classroom.
Lingle has argued the Education Department has enough funds in its $2 billion-plus budget for the tests.
Laderta said officials began drafting their complaint after the union failed to have the program ready by the June 30 deadline.
Lingle threatened earlier this year to repeal the contract if the drug program were to fall through. Laderta said the administration has not ruled out rescinding teacher pay raises included in the contract. "That is certainly an option that we are still keeping open," she said.
The complaint before the labor board comes as the teachers union and the state are already holding preliminary negotiations for a new contract. But Laderta said the drug testing issue could stall talks. "How can I trust them to do what they say they will do?" she said.