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Furloughs set off trash talk


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POSTED: Thursday, June 04, 2009

Disputes over state worker furloughs were no closer to being resolved yesterday as the major players took public swipes at each other.

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Gov. Linda Lingle, in an informal meeting with reporters yesterday morning, defended her bargaining with the unions, adding that the state is within its rights to order furloughs without public worker approval.

On Monday, Lingle announced three-day-a-month furloughs for all state employees for the next two years to save $688 million.

Union leaders and Senate President Colleen Hana-busa have said Lingle has not come up with a formal offer to the unions and instead is balancing the latest budget shortfall of $730 million by cutting state workers hours, which translates into a 13.8 percent pay cut.

Lingle blasted Hanabusa and Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira, saying: “;Hanabusa doesn't know what she is talking about,”; and Perreira is playing a semantics game by saying the state has not bargained.

“;Sen. Hanabusa really doesn't know what she is talking about in this case, because she has not been involved,”; Lingle said.

In reaction, Perreira said it is Lingle who is misleading the public.

“;It is the governor who has been lying to the press. She has been lying to the Legislature about how close to an agreement she is with other unions,”; Perreira said. “;Now she is fooling herself into thinking that people agree with her.”;

Hanabusa also discounted Lingle's bargaining.

“;Everything we have heard has given us the indication that the governor has not negotiated in good faith,”; Hanabusa said.

Yesterday, Lingle said she is able to furlough state workers without union approval because there is no state law about furloughing state workers.

The governor can lay off workers if there is not enough work or money for them, Lingle says, so it follows that if you can lay off, you can also furlough.

“;We don't believe that this is negotiable,”; Lingle said. “;It is not within the contracts. It is something I have an implied right to do.”;

;[Preview]  Cayetano Reacts To State Worker Furloughs
 

Former Governor Ben Cayetano reacts to Governor Lingle’s proposals to help the state budget deficit.

Watch ]

 

Lingle also insisted she has negotiated with the unions, saying that she has held individual meetings with all four of the state union leaders, and met with the University of Hawaii and Board of Education officials, but has been stymied by the unions.

“;They wanted to wait,”; she said. “;They thought they could get the Legislature to raise taxes. There was a reluctance on their part to come in.

“;It is not that there was no proposal on our part. I have been talking to the unions since last September,”; Lingle said, adding that Perreira's dismissal of her claims to be bargaining are “;disingenuous.”;

In response, Perreira said Lingle has made three offers and all included at least 16 furlough days a year. Now, Lingle is set to impose furloughs of 36 days a year under her Monday plan.

“;Our members are keenly aware of the situation and they know how bad our state's economy and budget is, but we are not in a position to make the kind of concessions the governor wants that will bankrupt our families,”; Perreira said.