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Lingle negotiator leaves talks as governor gears for layoffs


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Labor tensions continued rising yesterday as Gov. Linda Lingle's negotiator walked out of bargaining talks, and the governor said she is preparing for mass layoff notices to be sent as early as Friday.

The four public worker unions had the most inclusive bargaining session yet as the four county mayors and representatives of the state Board of Education and university all met at City Hall.

But state negotiator Marie Laderta, human resources director, walked out of the session, saying the “;unions are not willing to engage in any on-the-record discussion.”;

Lingle's plan to furlough state workers was ruled unconstitutional Thursday in Circuit Court.

She ordered the plan to save $688 million over two years and has said as many as 2,500 layoffs might be needed if she cannot furlough employees.

According to law, the state has the final say in any labor contract, so while the counties, Department of Education, UH and state hospitals all have votes in the contract, the state must also agree. If the state withholds its votes, no contract can be ratified.

After the talks, Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director, said the discussions, even without the state participating, were good.

“;It was time well spent,”; Perreira said.

Laderta said, however, nothing will move until the unions put forth a formal written proposal.

“;We have been waiting for a long time for an official, on-the-record counterproposal from them to our proposal,”; Laderta said before the talks started yesterday.

J.N. Musto, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly executive director, said the state was not telling the truth, claiming that his union had given the state three written contract proposals and never received a counteroffer.

“;Her assertion that the unions have not given a formal written proposal is just not true,”; Musto said.

;[Preview]    Lingle Negotiating Layoffs and Spending Cuts
  ;[Preview]
 

The governor said she's spending today and tomorrow meeting with her department heads to figure out how to trim more than $800 million from the state budget.

Watch ]

 

Meanwhile, Lingle said she is looking at ways to sharply cut state spending, and that is likely to include starting a process of laying off state workers.

“;You'll see these notices go out pretty quickly,”; Lingle told reporters yesterday morning.

“;To the extent that we're going to have some layoffs, they'll go out very soon so we can start the clock running.”;

Lingle said layoff notices are necessary according to state labor procedures, which require several monthly notices before the layoffs can happen.

In response, Perreira said Lingle is attempting to “;threaten employees and threaten the public.”;

“;If she chooses to address the entire budget shortfall by eliminating services to the public, that is a choice she gets to make,”; he said.