Mayors, unions hatch a pact and ask governor to join talks


POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2009

Public employee unions and the four county mayors have reached agreement on a proposal that the mayors say could be a starting point for formal, on-the-record negotiations with Gov. Linda Lingle.

A meeting is scheduled for Monday to discuss the proposal.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares, speaking on behalf of all the mayors, said the agreement is a “;framework”; to begin negotiations with the Lingle administration, and that they hope she will attend the session in person.

Lingle has said she would not participate in any discussions until unions make a formal offer “;on the record.”;

As of yesterday Lingle was not scheduled to participate Monday, said Lenny Klompus, the governor's communication's adviser. That could change in the next few days, Klompus added.

Hannemann said the unions notified a federal mediator they were willing to have Monday's discussions take place on the record, but Klompus said the Governor's Office received no word from the mediator as of yesterday.

Klompus said it was the administration that requested the meeting to discuss Lingle's proposed furlough plan.

The mayors would not say what was included in the proposal agreed to by the unions, but said it recognized the need for “;shared sacrifice”; by public workers.

Lingle had proposed employees take three furlough days a month for two years, which equates to a roughly 14 percent pay cut, but a Circuit Court judge threw out the order, saying it was an unconstitutional violation of unionized workers' rights to negotiate the issue.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association put on its Web page Wednesday a survey saying that its bargaining team had approved a 5 percent reduction in pay or one furlough day per month.

The mayors said the “;agreement in principle”; was the result of informal talks that have been going on without the governor represented.

“;We think the unions have come a long way, and that's why we're saying timing is of the essence,”; Hannemann said. “;Draconian cuts are in the air. We have a slightly different take on that, and we need to have this.”;

Unless furloughs can be negotiated, Lingle has said the state would have to resort to mass layoffs to make up the savings to close an estimated $786 million budget deficit. Lingle has not specified how many workers would be laid off, but initially placed the number as high as 2,500.

The mayors say the Department of Education, the University of Hawaii, the state Judiciary and Hawaii Health Systems Corp. also believe the proposal is viable. The parties cannot agree to new contracts without Lingle also agreeing.