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StarBulletin.com

Lingle accused of scare tactics


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POSTED: Saturday, July 18, 2009

With contract talks between the state and public workers union expected to resume Tuesday, a top union leader accused Gov. Linda Lingle of trying to influence those meetings through scare tactics and intimidation of public workers.

Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said verbal layoff notices—in some instances by a recorded phone message—were improper because the union was not given prior notice.

“;The way she's handling this process is just shameless,”; Perreira said yesterday at a news conference. “;She ostensibly is using this as a way to try to force and coerce the unions into agreeing with the plans that she's putting forth.”;

;[Preview]  Union Workers Stunned With Lay-Off Notices
 

The biggest union says the informal notices violate the lay-off process and are the Governor's tactic to scare workers.

Watch ]

 

Lingle, in a statement released through her office, said formal notice to the unions would be sent Monday listing names of employees who might be laid off.

; “;The state believes it was appropriate to first inform the affected employees directly before simply putting their names on a list to the union, rather than having them learn from someone else,”; the statement said.

Perreira said some Department of Human Services employees were informed by e-mail to call a telephone number—which played a recorded message from Human Services Director Lillian Koller informing them of the potential layoff.

Lingle apologized for the recorded message.

The sniping comes as talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday over labor contracts and furloughs proposed by Lingle to avoid laying off state workers.

Lingle has sought to furlough state workers three days each month—amounting to a 14 percent pay cut—noting that if furloughs cannot be negotiated, she will be forced to lay off workers to try and make up an estimated $730 million budget deficit.

A court blocked the governor from unilaterally imposing furloughs, prompting her to begin the layoff process.

Perreira said that while the governor did nothing illegal, he believes the unions should have been notified first. He had no count on how many people were notified, saying the union heard from “;dozens”; of employees when the verbal notices began yesterday morning.

The layoff notices come a day after Lingle announced she and her Cabinet members would “;lead by example”; and accept two furlough days a month on top of a 5 percent reduction in pay that began July 1, amounting to pay cuts of about 13 percent for top state executives.

Perreira called the move disingenuous. The governor's salary is about $123,000.

“;Our members don't make nearly as much as the governor,”; he said.

               

     

 

PHONE MESSAGE

        Text of the recorded message at the phone number that state Department of Human Services workers called to find out about their potential layoff:
       

Aloha,

       

This is Human Services Director Lillian Koller.

       

As your employer, I want to give you the courtesy of hearing an important message from me, before you hear it from anyone else.

       

Due to the state's financial situation, your name has been placed on a list of permanent civil service employees for a reduction-in-force—or RIF—consultation with your union.

       

This is the first step in the RIF process. It is not a final action.

       

Once again, this is a courtesy message to let you know that your name is on the RIF list for consultation with your union.

       

Mahalo for calling.