Tuesday, February 2, 1999

State’s union
workers press for
funding raises

About 100 jam a hearing room
to ask approval of a bill to
fund pay hikes

By Mike Yuen


More than 100 unionized state workers and their leaders jammed into a hearing room this morning, asking the House Labor Committee to approve an administration-sponsored bill that would fund pay raises for about 28,000 state and county employees.

More than $164 million in general funds and more than $61 million in special funds would be paid to the workers, who are represented by the blue-collar United Public Workers union and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state's largest public workers union. Some federal funds would also be used for the salary increases.

One of UPW's bargaining units has not had a raise in four years and another unit was awarded an increase after the Legislature adjourned last year, said Davis Yogi, the state's collective bargaining chief negotiator.

And while the state reached a salary deal two years ago with four HGEA units, the collective-bargaining pact has yet to be approved by lawmakers, Yogi said.

The raises pushed by the administration would be effective upon approval of the bill.

Citing budgetary concerns in a tight economy, legislative leaders declined to fund the pay raises last year.

Gregory Peterson, an income maintenance worker for the state Human Services Department and an HGEA member, said in written testimony that state workers have been providing quality service to isle citizens and have embraced Gov. Ben Cayetano's call "to do more with less."

He added: "We do, however, resent being the scapegoat for the current economic situation that faces the state and city and county jurisdictions. This leads to serious morale problems and erodes the will to seek more efficient ways to operate state services."

Catherine Payne, Farrington High School principal, said it is "very uncomfortable" to ask for something for herself.

But the HGEA pay package for 1997-99 is the first attempt to address salary inequities of principals and vice principals in the public-school system, she said.

Since the pay of entering educational officers is tied to teachers' salaries, "those of us who came into the system as relatively low-paid teachers have remained as the lowest paid school administrators," said Payne, whose annual salary has been frozen at $63,468. "Those of us who have remained for long periods in our positions, rather than moving from job to job, have been financially penalized even more."

Wally Landford, an HGEA member and state Transportation Department worker, complained of the stalled pay raises -- and about having his office moved to Kapolei. "Beginning next month, I'm going to be charged a fee of $25 a month for parking at a place I didn't choose to be at anyway."

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