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HGEA workers agree to cuts


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Hawaii Government Employees Association has overwhelmingly ratified two-year contracts with the state and counties that include 42 days fewer workdays for most of its members.

The contracts, representing more than 29,600 workers, will effectively result in a wage cut of up to 8 percent for many for the next two years in a slow state economy, the union said.

But Gov. Linda Lingle's administration, which supported the proposed contracts, said last week the state will still have to lay off some state employees starting next month — a number now estimated at 750 workers.

Lingle last night said she was pleased with the ratification vote.

“;HGEA members clearly recognized that the type of shared sacrifice embodied in our agreement is necessary to help see our state through the budget crisis we are now experiencing,”; she said in a prepared statement.

HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said the agreements show public employees are willing to do their part to help the state with its budget challenges.

Perreira said Lingle and state legislators need to take action to prevent further job losses.

“;In accepting these significant wage reductions, we expect the Lingle administration will look to ways other than layoffs to address the state's budget shortfall,”; Perreira said in a prepared statement last night. “;It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to do what they can to prevent further job losses and greater impacts to the public services that our community relies upon.”;

The furlough days and pay cuts are expected to save an estimated $204 million over the fiscal biennium ending June 2011, according to the Governor's Office.

Voting took place among seven bargaining units statewide on Thursday, Friday and yesterday.

Five of the seven bargaining units cast 70 percent or more votes in favor of their respective contracts, and one — the professional nurses — voted 60 percent in favor of its agreement.

The only group that has not finished voting is the HGEA's bargaining Unit 6, the smallest with 815 members, including school principals and vice principals. The last portion of Unit 6 was scheduled to complete voting at 2:30 p.m. today in Pearl City.

Those finished with voting were six bargaining units including government blue-collar supervisors, white-collar employees, registered nurses and University of Hawaii employees in administrative, technical and professional positions.

The state and union completed an arbitration hearing involving all seven bargaining units on Oct. 2.

In the event any of the units did not ratify a new contract, the respective bargaining unit, state and counties would have been subject to a binding arbitration decision by late December.

The contracts, from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2011, call for some 18 furlough days this fiscal year and 24 furlough days in the next fiscal year for some state employees, including those in blue-collar supervisory jobs and white-collar nonsupervisory positions.

Some county employees, including blue-collar supervisors and white-collar nonsupervisors, will have no furlough days this fiscal year and 24 in the next fiscal year.

The counties and state are expected to put out a scheduled of the furlough days, said union spokesman Jodi Endo Chai.

Bargaining units at the University of Hawaii and state hospitals have no furlough days and have agreed to an across-the-board 5 percent pay cut for each of the two fiscal years.

;[Preview]    HGEA Ratification Voting Wraps Up
  ;[Preview]
 

The economic fate of 30,000 members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association will be determined soon.

Watch ]

 

The Hawaii State Teachers Association voted last month to approve 17 furlough days over a two-year period for teachers on a 10-month schedule and 21 for members on a 12-month schedule.

The teachers' furlough days were needed to meet an unprecedented $468 million in budget cuts by the state Department of Education during a two-year period, school officials said.

The first school furlough day is scheduled for Friday.

Lingle has said that before deciding to trim labor costs, she pursued options to reduce spending among departments, saving $2 billion, but the state still needed to seek more budget cuts.

Meanwhile, still to be resolved are negotiations with the United Public Workers union.

Lingle has said she felt the UPW needed to return to the table for further talks. A message left for UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua was not returned.

Members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, representing UH professors, rejected a contract offer earlier this month that called for a 5 percent wage cut this year and next.