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StarBulletin.com

Lingle gets rolling on layoffs


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Some 1,100 state civil servants are slated to lose their jobs in three months because of Hawaii's budget shortfall.

A total of 666 will come from the Human Services and Health departments.

Gov. Linda Lingle announced yesterday that state workers who had been previously notified by supervisors that they would be laid off have started getting the official written notices. It is the first of three monthly notices required by worker contracts.

If the state and the four public employees unions do not reach agreement by the end of the three months, Lingle said the 1,100 will lose their jobs.

Because of “;bumping rights,”; those workers with more seniority will be able to knock out less senior civil servants in the same job classification.

Because workers who bump the other employees take their salary with them, it is not known how much money Lingle will actually save by the first round of layoffs.

“;It is premature to say how much money will be saved from the layoffs because of the elaborate procedures involved with bumping,”; Lingle said yesterday afternoon in a telephone interview.

She also announced that 900 employees, including members of her office, will be furloughed three days a month, starting next month. Furloughs are expected to save $7 million to $10 million a year.

;[Preview]  Governor Issues Official Layoff Notices
 

Some 1,100 workers who had earlier been verbally notified of layoffs received official notices.

Watch ]

 

Lingle said she prefers to handle the state's entire shortfall, now estimated to be $786 million, with furloughs instead of putting employees out of work.

Because of financial uncertainty, Lingle said she is planning another round of layoffs, although she told department heads that she wanted more consideration to cutting entire programs instead of the nibbling away at jobs across the board.

“;I would be working with them more closely because of the need to start looking at entire programs instead of just a few people from a variety of programs,”; Lingle said.

While not blaming them, Lingle repeatedly said she is mystified by the lack of progress in talks with the unions.

On Monday, Lingle said, administration representatives met with two of the unions, but there was no progress and the unions rebuffed a request to hold another bargaining session.

“;I am just surprised because I don't see where the time has benefited either the union negotiating team or the members. The longer this has gone on, the worse the revenue picture has become,”; Lingle said.

The state's largest union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, is scheduled to start binding arbitration with the state on Sept. 4. That means that a neutral arbitrator will decide on a new contract for HGEA after listening to testimony from both the union and the state. The arbitrator's decision obligates both sides. It is expected to come in December.

The HGEA did not comment on Lingle's layoff and furlough action.