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State workers pitch 5 percent pay cut


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Public workers appear headed for at least a 5 percent pay cut for two years, but there is no indication from Gov. Linda Lingle that the concession would be enough to make up for a $750 million budget shortfall.

All parties finally started serious bargaining yesterday as Lingle was joined at the table by the four county mayors, the four public worker unions and representatives of the University of Hawaii, the Department of Education, the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and the state Judiciary.

In past years the governor has had the votes needed to conduct the talks unilaterally, but this year the four counties broke away from the state, saying they wanted their own agreement with the unions.

While no agreements were reached yesterday, it was clear that the state was moving down one bargaining track while the counties were holding out for separate side deals under one master contract.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he was “;glad the stalemate has been broken,”; but admitted, “;There is still some massaging left to be done.”;

After the 2 1/2 -hour talk yesterday, Lingle would not answer questions, instead repeatedly saying, “;We are a united state employer group.”;

Noting she would be busy with the impending visit of Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko for the next two days, Lingle would not say when the state would return to the bargaining table.

The four mayors stressed they want a series of side agreements that address the issues of furloughs, layoffs, wage cuts and health care benefits, according to Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

Hannemann emphasized that the state and the other employer groups have to first lock in a “;master agreement”; with the unions before settling on the subagreements with the counties.

“;What we wanted all along as county mayors is to individually come to our own agreement. There is recognition from the governor that we all have different needs,”; Hannemann said.

“;This is a huge step in collective bargaining to recognize that each of us is different with our own needs,”; Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares said.

Randy Perreira, the Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director, spoke for the four unions after yesterday's session.

He said the unions put a formal offer on the table, which was the condition Lingle demanded before she would personally join the labor talks, and also an informal proposal.

;[Preview]    Public unions meet with state and county negotiators
  ;[Preview]
 

Hawaii's public unions made their formal offer today to state and county negotiators trying to solve the state's budget crisis.

Watch ]

 

The informal proposal contained the 5 percent wage cut. Perreira said the salary cut was the same as the one currently being taken by state and county executives and the Legislature.

“;The sacrifice the employees are willing to make is the same sacrifice legislators voted for themselves and the governor and the mayors have taken for themselves,”; Perreira said.

Asked if the unions had any proposals to cut the state budget, Perreira said he has repeatedly suggested that the state consider offering early retirement to state workers.

The unions did not release the contents of the formal proposal.

“;When senior workers see their medical premiums are going up and their pay is going down, they just as would like to get out,”; Perreira said.