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Lingle warns unions to bargain now


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle is warning public employee unions that those who bargain with the state now will get a better settlement than those who stall.

During a news conference yesterday at the Capitol, Lingle said she hopes to conclude talks with at least one of the four public worker unions next week.

She also warned union members that if they have not approved a new contract by July 1, when their old contracts expire, they will be without significant labor protections.

“;At that time they will have no vacation or sick leave or grievance procedures or layoff protections because they will have no contracts,”; Lingle said.

Lingle is urging the public unions to step up to negotiate now and is offering them a better deal.

“;Those who come in and help on the front end will get a preferred package compared to those who either challenge us down the road at some time or simply hold out for more,”; Lingle warned. “;The people who come now to be part of the solution will get the best opportunities for their members.”;

Lingle has said the negotiations are not about pay increases, but about either furloughs or reduced medical benefits.

But the leaders of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, United Public Workers, Hawaii Government Employees Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly disputed Lingle's claim that a settlement is imminent.

To date, no formal proposals have been made to any of the four unions, leaving them with nothing to negotiate, according to the unions.

Lingle also blasted the state Legislature, saying the tax increases it passed are hampering negotiations and leading unions members to believe they will not have to bargain.

“;It is important for the public to link together these tax increases and my ongoing negotiations. The legislators are giving the public employees a false sense of hope telling them they don't need to negotiate seriously because 'We are getting you all the money you need,'”; Lingle said.

Lingle announced that she will stage a public veto ceremony tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. on three bills: SB 1111, which would raise the hotel room tax; HB 1741, a conveyance-tax increase; and HB 1747, which would raise state income tax rates.