Unions fail to impress Lingle with pay proposal


POSTED: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A proposal offered by the state's four public employee unions to the state and counties this week did not win over Gov. Linda Lingle, according to union reports of the meeting.

The unions put forward one official proposal and a second, more detailed informal proposal.

The formal plan was needed to meet Lingle's requirement for an official on-the-record proposal from the unions before she would attend a bargaining session.

That union plan called for existing union contracts to remain in place for the next two years. Also, the state would continue to pick up 60 percent of employees' medical insurance, which just jumped 23 percent in cost this month.

The informal proposal was more detailed. Here are the key points:

» There would be a 5 percent temporary salary reduction for two years, with each union group negotiating the way to reduce salaries. The 5 percent reduction could be “;achieved through equivalent elimination of positions either through attrition or layoffs.”;

» Health insurance would still be split 60-40 between employer and employees, and benefits would not be changed.

» Early retirement would be encouraged, and the employers would support any legislative early-retirement incentives.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly's Web page described Lingle as “;disappointed at the unions' response to her offer and a 14.5 percent wage cut.”;

“;She stated that this proposal would only put the state in a deeper fiscal crisis by requiring more money to be spent (on medical insurance).

“;She looked very unhappy,”; the union Web site said.

State Human Resources Director Marie Laderta did not return calls for comment.

Bargaining between the state, counties and the unions is on hold.

Lingle said she would draft a response to the union's formal proposal and send it to the counties for response and then to the unions. There was no mention of Lingle's reaction to the informal 5 percent pay cut plan.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association Web page also had an update on negotiations, telling members of the state's largest union that it was bargaining to avoid layoffs.

“;The unions are willing to accept a wage cut that would be equal to what the governor and her Cabinet, the mayors and their Cabinet members, and the legislators have taken,”; Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director, said on the Web page. “;Employees should not be asked to sacrifice any more than what their own boss is sacrificing.”;

Legislators, at the beginning of the year, started receiving the first part of a 36 percent pay raise that was approved by the salary commission in 2007. Lingle, judges and other state executives have been getting pay raises since 2007. A public outcry about the size of the Legislature's pay raise forced lawmakers to take a 5 percent pay cut. County government leaders also took a cut in pay.