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Arbitrator closes state hearings


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POSTED: Saturday, September 05, 2009

Critical arbitration hearings to hash out a new contract between the Lingle administration and Hawaii's largest public worker union are under way behind closed doors despite the objections of state negotiators.

The hearings are the start of a process that will lead to a decision by Philip Tamoush, a professional arbitrator from California. Tamoush is the neutral member of a panel that includes one union representative, Larry Ishimi, and one management member, Stan Shiraki.

Gov. Linda Lingle says the state must either cut its work force or cut its pay through furloughs to offset a large budget shortfall over the next two years. The last state offer called for 48 days of furlough over the next two years. The Hawaii Government Employees Association has said it would agree to 30 days of furloughs.

;[Preview]  HGEA welcomes mainland arbitrator
 

Arbitrator Philip Tamoush is here for binding arbitration hearings between the state and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Watch ]

 

The neutral arbitrator has until December to come up with a decision. Unless the state and the HGEA reach an agreement before that, they are bound by Tamoush's decision.

Officials yesterday said Tamoush insisted that the hearings, in which the state and the unions argue their cases, be closed.

In comments after yesterday's hearings at the state Labor Department offices on Punchbowl Street, Tamoush said he did not think the news media would understand the proceedings.

“;His concern is that the news media will come in for bits of time and catch snapshots of what is discussed and report on it and not be there for the course of the entire day,”; said Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director.

               

     

 

PROFILE

        PHILIP TAMOUSH
       

» Torrance, Calif.-based arbitrator
        » Southern California regional chairman of the National Academy of Arbitrators
        » Has served as the neutral party on dozens of arbitration panels involving both public and private employers
        Source: Associated Press

       

Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser, said the state's panel member did not vote to close the hearing.

“;I presume the union was the second vote,”; Smith said.

Perreira said he did not know whether his union member on the panel, Ishimi, voted with Tamoush.

After the hearing, Tamoush was asked about the vote to close the hearing and why it was closed.

“;I think everybody deferred to me. Frankly, I have a pretty strong position that is hard for you guys (news media) to understand what we are trying to do. To report on it without knowing the past year and everything is just difficult,”; Tamoush said.

Before the hearing, Tamoush ordered the assembled reporters out of the meeting, adding that the members of the public in the crowd of about 100 would also have to leave.

Pal Smith, with the Hawaii Republican Assembly, a group that Smith said is not affiliated with the local GOP, called Tamoush's decision “;very objectionable.”;

“;The more things they do behind closed doors, the more they leave the taxpayers to think that one of the parties is lying,”; said Smith, who is married to Lingle adviser Linda Smith.

For his part, Perreira said he did not care whether the hearings were open or closed, but said that if the news media were allowed to attend, his members should also be allowed in.

The meetings are expected to continue for three or four days.