Tuesday, May 18, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Money hunted to correct
hospital pay oversight

By Helen Altonn


Hawaii Health Systems Corporation officials are looking for $19.7 million to cover pay increases the Legislature failed to fund for 3,000 employees of the 12 hospitals.

The figure includes $15.3 million in retroactive collective bargaining pay raises and $4.4 million for increased wages from July 1 to Jan. 1.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Bob Nakata, conference co-chairman on a collective bargaining bill passed by the Legislature, said he thought it contained money for the hospital workers when he signed it near midnight on April 30.

"The Senate intended to fund that, and somehow it slipped through the cracks," he said. "I thought we had an agreement, then it was not in the bill when it went to the floor. In the rush at the end, I didn't catch that."

He said he talked to Rep. Terry Nui Yoshinaga, House Labor & Public Employment chairman and conference co-chairman on the bill. Although the House prepared the final draft of the bill, she said she didn't know what happened, Nakata said. "She said it was her understanding that it was to be in the bill."

Health Systems and union officials were stunned to find the section in the bill deleted that appropriated funds for the corporation's workers -- members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers.

"There is a lot of controversy about how the funding was not provided, but we weren't there and we can't tell you," said Randy Perreira, HGEA field services officer.

Considering the deletion of the funding provision, Kelley Roberson, HHSC vice president and chief financial officer, asked, "Where is the aloha in that?"

He said the corporation is required to pay the salary increases and doesn't have the money.

A special fund from hospital fees has about $6 million that will be spent in two days on the system's $5.5 million payroll, he said. "We already owe the Department of Accounting and General Services $7 million for the last couple payrolls."

Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, spokeswoman for Gov. Ben Cayetano, said the administration is aware of the situation and is exploring ways to solve it.

Roberson and Perreira mentioned several possibilities.

One might be to reduce the system's contributions to the public employees retirement fund and use the savings for the pay increases.

Another would be to ask the state for a cash advance and submit a deficit spending bill to the Legislature for emergency funding in January.

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