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State, HGEA could reach deal in days


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POSTED: Saturday, October 03, 2009

The long-stalled labor talks between the state and the white-collar Hawaii Government Employees Association appear headed for resolution early next week.

Yesterday evening, Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director, said the union would spend the weekend “;working on contract language.”;

A tentative agreement “;is more likely to happen sometime at the beginning of next week,”; according to a union spokeswoman.

Both the state and the HGEA appear ready to settle and to include furloughs, which will amount to a pay cut for the 27,300 state and county workers represented by HGEA.

Perreira said his union has fought to protect members from layoffs and also to reach agreement on pay cuts without having it imposed by binding arbitration.

               

     

 

LET'S MAKE A DEAL

        THE DEAL: Hawaii Government Employees Association members will be furloughed for an unspecified number of days this year and next. Gov. Linda Lingle rejected earlier an HGEA proposal for 30 furlough days over two years.
       

WHAT'S NEXT?: HGEA, Lingle and at least one of four county mayors must approve the deal. HGEA must then explain the contract to members and get their approval.

       

WHAT'S AT STAKE?: Employee costs are 70 percent of the state budget, which is still showing a nearly $900 million shortfall. Cutting pay through furloughs will reduce cuts to state programs.

       

OTHER STATE UNIONS: Blue-collar United Public Workers members are not close to reaching agreement, according to Lingle. The University of Hawaii faculty union is surveying members to see whether they would accept a proposed 5 percent pay cut, but the union is recommending against it.

       

 

       

The state, Gov. Linda Lingle said, was interested in reducing its labor costs because of the budget shortfall. At a news conference yesterday she said the furloughs are better than layoffs, but layoffs will still continue for 780 to 1,100 state workers already notified that their positions have been eliminated.

Lingle said the first round of layoffs is estimated to save the state $25 million a year.

If further layoffs are needed, Lingle said, the second round will not need to be as drastic if the unions agree to the furlough plan now nearing approval.

Lingle was not as encouraging about the prospect of settlement with the nearly 13,000 blue-collar United Public Workers union members, saying there have been no talks in several weeks.

“;UPW has taken a very legalistic approach—filing a multitude of prohibited-practice complaints and lawsuits,”; Lingle said.

In comparison, the HGEA, while still filing lawsuits, has been more willing to bargain, she said, noting “;the HGEA has taken a different approach.”;

;[Preview]  Deal expected between Governor, HGEA
 

Governor Linda Lingle and the Hawaii Government Employee's Association say they are on the edge of a tentative contract agreement.

Watch ]

 

For the contract to be settled, the state must get at least one of the four county mayors to sign on.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, reached at a mainland conference, said he and the other three mayors would decide together whether to sign the contract. Hannemann said the four had questions about a portion of the contract.

“;It is not a deal breaker, but it needs to be clarified,”; he said.

Hannemann and the other mayors had announced in July that the counties and the four unions had “;reached an understanding in principle on the basis for a new collective bargaining pact.”;

Yesterday, Hannemann said the HGEA deal with Lingle “;models what we said: We said, 'Governor, you need to get in the room and talk.'

“;Basically, it is what we said from the beginning.”;

Perreira was hopeful yesterday that the contract issues would be resolved within hours and that getting the mayors to sign on was the only step left.

For Perreira, the contract will mean HGEA members will have to take a pay reduction. He had already offered to take 30 furlough days over two years, while Lingle had said the state wanted at least 48 days.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association just approved a contract that calls for 34 furloughs days over two years for almost all members.