Friday, July 16, 1999

Other unions not planning
to follow suit after UH
payroll lag ruling

By Mike Yuen


Fearing layoffs, the public schoolteachers union says it won't piggyback on a court ruling that prevents the state from imposing a payroll lag on University of Hawaii professors -- even though the payroll lag applies to teachers and all other state employees.

Nor does the state's largest public workers union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, appear inclined to take advantage of the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Russell Okata, executive director of the 40,200-member HGEA, said yesterday that Gov. Ben Cayetano has told association leaders that he is willing to discuss reducing the payroll lag -- which was to save the state $51 million -- from five days to two days if the state's sluggish economy improves.

Meanwhile, Cayetano branded the University of Hawaii faculty union as "self-centered" for successfully obtaining an injunction against the payroll lag.

Cayetano's ire was directed at the 2,900-member University of Hawaii Professional Assembly; he did not fire a verbal volley at the appeals court.

Cayetano also said he won't be appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld the ruling by U.S. District Judge Alan Kay that the timing of paying state workers is part of the collective-bargaining agreement.

Reacting to the "self-centered" label that Cayetano slapped on the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, Associate Executive Director John Radcliffe said, "The situation -- regardless of how he chooses to remember it -- was that we wanted to bargain (over the payroll lag). He refused."

The appeals court decision "negates the likelihood of any future payroll lag," Radcliffe added.

Cayetano said, "The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly's win in court means that the state will be required to develop two payroll systems -- one for university faculty only, and another for all state employees. The extent to which UHPA went to fight the state on the payroll lag only demonstrates how self-centered the faculty union is."

UH system professors and instructors will be paid as was done in the past -- on the 15th and the last day of the month, based on the hours they were presumed to have worked. Under the new system, which is intended to curb salary overpayments, all other state workers are paid later and there's no assumptions as to the number of hours worked since time cards are filled out after the two-week work period is completed.

Other public workers unions did not fight the state in court "because they understood the fiscal necessity of the payroll lag to balancing the state budget," Cayetano said.

Danielle Lum, spokeswoman for the 12,000-member Hawaii State Teachers Association, said HSTA won't seek to have its members paid earlier like UH instructors because "if we did, the state would (need to find) $21 million because our payroll is so great. There would be the likelihood of cutting teaching positions. We're just not going to take that chance."

HGEA's Okata also cited job protection as the rationale for going along with the pay lag.

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