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Motion to block furloughs to be heard in court July 2


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POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Two state-employee unions asked a judge yesterday to block Gov. Linda Lingle from unilaterally ordering thousands of state workers to take three unpaid days off per month, starting in July.

The motion by the Hawaii State Teachers Association and United Public Workers is to be heard July 2, four days before the furloughs are scheduled to start.

The first furlough days are set for July 6 and 8 for a small number of state workers, and July 10 for the bulk of the state work force, according to schedules Lingle's office issued last week.

The union motion contends that temporary furloughs constitute changes in wages, hours and employment conditions that must be negotiated, and that they are an unconstitutional violation of state workers' rights to collective bargaining.

“;The defendants apparently contend that furloughs are not a required subject of collective bargaining,”; the union motion stated, referring to Lingle and top aides. “;But that is obviously wrong. The furloughs involve significant reductions in both wages and hours, which are both core subjects of collective bargaining.”;

Attorney General Mark Bennett reiterated yesterday that the governor holds sole authority to order those employees directly under her to take unpaid days off.

He also said he will push to have the dispute aired first before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, whose three members are Lingle appointees, rather than the courts.

The teachers association and the United Public Workers filed lawsuits against furloughs last week.

Lingle is expected soon to sign an executive order to implement the furloughs, which she says will save the state about $688 million.

The furloughs would directly affect 15,600 state employees under her control.