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Friday, October 20, 2000

Is there a rift between Lt. Gov. Hirono
and Gov. Cayetano?

Cayetano criticizes
Hirono’s dissent

Hirono says the governor
should award the HGEA
its arbitrated pay raises

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano is criticizing Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono after she announced her disagreement with Cayetano's labor negotiation strategy.

Cayetano said she is giving the appearance of a divided state administration.

Hirono said she differed with Cayetano when he said the Hawaii Government Employees Association doesn't have a binding award with the state to give workers a pay increase.

In April, arbitrators awarded the HGEA a contract worth nearly $200 million, according to the state. But the Legislature never took up the settlement for approval. Cayetano says that because the Legislature didn't act, the award is void and the state has to negotiate again.

The union and several key legislative leaders disagree, saying the award should be paid.

Hirono said the award should be presented to the Legislature, and the state should start bargaining hard with the other unions.

But Cayetano said Hirono is hurting the state's position. "She never told me she was going to issue this press release," he said.

"She mentions she talked to people across the state, cafeteria managers, cooks and teachers -- the only person she didn't talk to is me. This is kind of sad; if someone wants to be governor, they have to look at the whole picture.

"This doesn't help -- it kind of sounds like the administration is divided, and she hasn't even been in any of our discussions about the negotiations," Cayetano said.

Hirono argued, however, that the state should send the HGEA award back to the Legislature, allow the Legislature to hold hearings on it and then vote it "up or down."

Hirono said it is a misconception to call the HGEA award a 15 percent or 14.8 percent increase because that is the average after calculating step increases for specific workers. The actual award is more like 9 percent, she said.

"The governor says we can't afford to pay the other unions 14.8 percent," Hirono said. "Well, is anyone holding a gun to our heads saying that is the only thing we have to agree to?

"I am not suggesting this arbitration award is what we should pay everyone. To me, that is what hard bargaining is all about -- where you say 'No, we are not going to pay you that,'" she said.

Hirono characterized the difference as a disagreement between two attorneys over a legal definition and that both she and the governor wanted the labor issue resolved.

She took the matter public, she said, because she thought it was the best way to raise the issue.

"He has made his position very clear. I don't think he would change his mind," Hirono said.

Cayetano disagreed, saying the state is negotiating both informally and on the bargaining table. He said there have been off-the-record discussions with leaders of both the HGEA and the United Public Workers.

The state has also discussed issues with the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the university faculty representatives, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

It is not clear how well the negotiations are going, however. UPW has taken a strike vote; UHPA is at an impasse (the step before declaring a strike); the HGEA insists the state should pay the arbitrated award; and the HSTA saying the state has not yet discussed any salary increases.

"I've been telling people we can't afford to fund an across-the-board settlement at the level the HGEA got," Cayetano said.

"One would have to be blind to our fiscal condition. It is not like we want a strike; all this is going to be worked out.

"The unions need to reflect and take stock of what we are trying to do for education and understand the state's fiscal condition," Cayetano said.

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