Labor agreements to be redrawn


POSTED: Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle has won agreement from state legislative leaders to go back into session next month to restore $50 million to pay public school teachers and stop next year's Furlough Fridays.

Lawmakers hope that Lingle, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and state school officials will be able to redraw their newly approved labor agreements to stop 27 furlough days planned for 2010-2011.

Lingle met yesterday with Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and House Speaker Calvin Say to reach agreement that the Legislature would come into a special session next month to take $50 million from the state Rainy Day Fund to pay for teacher furlough days.

But the unions and the state must first agree how a new contract would be written.

“;The (school) board, the DOE and the teachers will have to determine what they are going to give up in terms of nonfurlough days,”; Say said.

“;A lot of this can happen as soon as the unions and the DOE and BOE get to the table and work this thing out,”; Hanabusa said.

Wil Okabe, HSTA president, said union officials are awaiting a proposal.

“;As seasoned lawmakers the speaker of the House and the Senate president know how the process works. When a formal proposal is made, we will evaluate the proposal and respond accordingly,”; Okabe said.

Lingle proposed last week that the state take $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund to pay for 12 teacher furlough days and that teachers and public school workers such as principals and athletic directors represented by the HGEA convert 15 noninstructional days to classroom time.

The legislators feel the deal is complicated because the state's Rainy Day Fund law specifically says the money cannot be used for collective-bargaining issues, such as salaries. Also, previous state supreme Court rulings have said that the Legislature cannot be involved in collective bargaining.

So when the Legislature returns it will have to rewrite the Rainy Day Fund law to permit money to be used for salaries and also withdraw the $50 million, Hanabusa said.

“;It is my preference that we amend the law. It is a more transparent statement, and it is clear to the public that we are doing this to eliminate the furlough days,”; Hanabusa said.

Lingle's press office said yesterday that representatives from the administration and the Board and Department of Education met to work out the details of the plan.

Hanabusa said she hopes the state will never again be in such financial trouble.

“;I hope we as a state are never faced with this kind of economic crisis again. I don't think there is any elected official who hasn't said education is the No. 1 priority. It is time to put our money where our mouth is. This is a policy statement,”; Hanabusa said.