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Furlough Fridays close services twice a month


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Services such as the issuing of marriage licenses will not be available this Friday, next Friday, the last two Fridays in November and the last two Thursdays in December as state offices close because of state worker furloughs.

The state will shut down state buildings and government services two Fridays a month for the next 20 months, until June 30, 2011.

The action is the result of state workers represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association agreeing to a new union contract that calls for 18 furlough days this year and 24 furloughs days next year.

Exempt state workers who had been taking three furlough days a month will go to the new schedule and will take 15 furlough days between Nov. 1 and June 30.

Part-time employees will have their furlough days prorated. Those working 20 hours a week will have 12 hours of furlough per month.

The Friday closures in most state departments start this week.

;[Preview]  HGEA Furloughs Are Now A Reality
 

The state says it will close down state office buildings when workers are on furloughs.

Watch ]

 

The state Judiciary, however, will remain open during regular business hours this month, according to spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa.

The state Labor Department will follow a staggered system to avoid being closed two Fridays in a row, although it will be closed this Friday and next Friday.

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Darwin Ching, state labor director, said the department's online system to file for unemployment is expected to be completed next month, so that displaced workers will be able to file claims through the Internet.

The furloughs represent a blow to the HGEA, the state's largest union and one of its most politically influential.

Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director, said Hawaii's faltering economy represents “;a lingering problem.”;

“;I hope this is as bad as it gets, that this is a low point,”; Perreira said yesterday.

Gov. Linda Lingle called on state workers yesterday to “;do everything they can within their operations to minimize disruptions in service.”;

Some of the state's major operations located in downtown Honolulu will be closed during the furlough days.

For instance, the state announced yesterday that the Kalanimoku Building, home to both the Land and Natural Resources and the Accounting and General Services departments, will be closed two Fridays a month, starting this week.

The one exception is the Bureau of Conveyances, which according to state law must remain open to record real estate and business transactions.

Other departments and agencies such as the Hawaii Public Housing Authority and community health centers will follow different furlough schedules so the public can conduct business and meet deadlines, the state said.

“;Our focus in developing the furlough plan was to ensure state government offices continue to provide the best possible service to the public under the current fiscal circumstances,”; Lingle said in a news release.

Offices that will maintain current operations and will stagger or rotate furlough days to minimize impacts include plant quarantine inspections at state airports and harbors, civil defense, veterans services, freeway lane coning, Zipper Lane operation and other 24/7 operations within the state Department of Transportation.

State correctional facilities and the State Hospital will also stagger or rotate furlough days to maintain 24-hour operations.

Small boat harbors and most state parks will be open during furlough days, the state said.

While most furlough days are Fridays, Christmas and New Year's Day occur on Fridays this year, pushing the furlough days back to Thursday.