Mayors commit to contract with furlough option intact


POSTED: Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hawaii's four mayors are ready to sign a new, two-year labor contract with the state's largest public employee union, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann reports.

But Hannemann says the counties, unlike the state, want the option of imposing—but don't intend to use—18 furlough days this year and would also continue to pay 60 percent of their workers' health care benefits this year.

Hannemann said because the counties' budgets for the year are set, they have factored in the labor costs, but he warned that the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, is expected to bring in lower property tax revenues that would mean county budget cuts.

“;We will definitely use furloughs next year,”; Hannemann said.

If the state agrees to the county conditions to allow them the option of furloughing workers this fiscal year, the counties will agree to the proposed contract with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hannemann said.

The state and the HGEA reported last week they were close to a labor deal calling for 18 furlough days this year and 24 days without pay next year.

Neither Lingle nor the HGEA commented yesterday on Hannemann's plan.

The HGEA told its members via its Web site yesterday that it continues to work with employers to finalize contact language.

“;We are hopeful that a tentative agreement can be reached sometime next week,”; the union in its brief Web site statement.

Hannemann, who just returned from a tourism promotion trip to Japan and a municipal conference in Seattle, faulted the state for not getting all the contract details to him early on.

“;It wasn't until yesterday we got some written language from the state,”; Hannemann said, adding that Gov. Linda Lingle has not kept up with the day-to-day negotiations.

“;The governor doesn't really know this because our staffs are talking, and that is how we get out information. I think sometimes when she speaks she is not really fully informed,”; Hannemann said.

“;Communication has been going on the staff level. We have choke (slang for plenty) communication,”; Hannemann told reporters yesterday during a half-hour news conference in his office.

Thursday, Lingle criticized the mayors, noting that only Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho was in the state.

“;Hopefully, even though they're traveling in other parts or the world or country, they're going to give this the proper attention,”; Lingle said.

Hannemann advised Lingle to tone down her rhetoric, saying, “;We don't tell the governor how to run the state. She shouldn't tell the mayors how to run the counties.”;

“;She really has to stop this finger-pointing on this situation. We are just as motivated as she is and the unions are to achieve a settlement,”; Hannemann said.