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Gov. Lingle accuses mayors of complicating state labor talks


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POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle blasted Mayor Mufi Hannemann and the other county mayors yesterday for complicating her plans to discuss furloughs with state union negotiators tomorrow.

Last week, the mayors and union leaders announced they had a tentative contract agreement and called on Lingle to meet with union negotiations tomorrow to work on the deal.

“;The mayors have muddied the waters and made the situation for the state more difficult than they need to be,”; Lingle said yesterday at the Korean Festival at Kapiolani Park. ”;Mayor Hannemann made it seem as if Monday was a big negotiating day when in fact Monday is happening because I wrote a letter ... asking (two unions) to meet with us to discuss our furlough plan.”;

“;Really, the mayors are not a part of Monday,”; she said. “;The purpose of Monday was to negotiate furloughs and it's only the state that has a furlough plan.”;

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who was also at the festival but did not talk with Lingle, says the mayors were invited to tomorrow's meeting and that he will be there, talking about labor contracts. He said he wants a master agreement between the state and the unions so that individual deals can also be made in the counties.

Hannemann called on Lingle to be at the talks. Lingle's labor negotiator walked out of a union meeting this past Monday because the unions didn't have a formal proposal.

“;She's trying to limit the discussion to just furloughs on Monday because that's what she wants,”; he said. “;We're saying no. We got the unions on the record. We're going to talk about anything that has to do with collective bargaining.”;

“;We want her to come to the table,”; he said. “;The more she sticks to her old position, we'll never have any progress moving forward.”;

Lingle said she doesn't plan to be at tomorrow's meeting.

Facing an estimated $786 million state deficit, Lingle wants to furlough state workers for three days a month over the next two years, saving the state $30 million a month. The furloughs will cost workers 15 percent of their salaries.

Lingle's furlough plan was halted July 2 when Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto said she had to negotiate with the unions first.

Lingle plans to appeal the ruling, but said she wants to start discussing the furlough plan with the two state worker unions. If the furlough plans fall through, Lingle will look at laying off employees.

She said she arranged the meeting tomorrow with the two unions—the United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association. Furloughs will be the topic, but the unions can also offer a formal proposal for a labor contract to reduce labor costs, she said.

She disputed that the county mayors and unions had called the meeting to discuss an agreement to begin negotiations on a formal proposal.

Hannemann, who is studying a run for governor in 2010, denied criticisms that his actions with the unions are politically motivated.

“;All I want to do is break this stalemate,”; he said.

“;How is it that four county mayors and four state employers all agree?”; he said, referring to the state Department of Education, the University of Hawaii, the state Judiciary and the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. “;She's only choosing to be left out.”;

But Lingle dismissed the deal.

“;There is no proposal,”; she said. “;They (the mayors) said that they were just repeating what the unions had told them.”;

Lingle argued that the counties are in a different situation from the state. The state's deficit is a moving number that can decrease with lower tax revenues, while the counties have a steady revenue source in property taxes this year.

“;They're not affected, and that's why the focus has to be on the state's furlough plan,”; she said.

“;We need to get ahead of the curve here,”; she said. “;Let us get that into place so we can start to plug this budget gap now.”;

Hannemann and Lingle did agree on one thing, as Lingle put it, “;The longer we wait, the worse it's going to get.”;