Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

HGEA: Pay-raise
issue cost Harris

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association says Mayor Jeremy Harris' failure to honor pay raises last year cost him the union's endorsement this year.

"The Harris administration reneged on a collective-bargaining promise," HGEA chief Russell Okata said yesterday in endorsing Councilman Mufi Hannemann for mayor.

The administration, in response to Okata's statements yesterday, said the city is paying the raises -- retroactively as part of the 1999 and 2000 budgets.

Okata said that's only because Harris and the other mayors got the state Legislature last year to lower their contributions to the government employees retirement system.

The amount at issue is about $15.2 million -- retroactive to 1997 for HGEA members and 1995 for city employees in the United Public Workers.

The City Council, including Hannemann, agreed to fund the raises in 1998 but the Legislature's refusal to do so held them up.

Instead of holding onto the money to pay for the raises, as was done by other counties, the city used the money on other things, then said it didn't have the money available in 1999, Okata said.

"A year later, the Harris administration did not have monies to fund our contract," he said. "We had to go to the state Legislature to use some of our retirement money to fund the agreement and we felt that breach of the collective bargaining promise would not be tolerated."

Allowing retirement-fund money to be used for the Honolulu raises "placed our members' quality of life in jeopardy."

Okata added: "When an elected official breaks that promise (made in collective bargaining), it's probably the most sacred trust a person could break."

Amemiya said Harris did not break his word because the raises are being paid retroactively.

"The money for the raises is in this year's budget as well as next year's budget," he said.

The city did not pay the raises in 1999 because "we followed the opinion of the state attorney general that when the Legislature failed to approve the raises, there was no agreement."

The HGEA endorsed Harris in 1996.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin