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Friday, October 27, 2000

State of Hawaii

HSTA expects
to hear formal
state response

Cayetano says a 9 percent
raise is the state's best offer,
but teachers want
continued salary talks

By Crystal Kua
and Richard Borreca

The Hawaii State Teachers Association expects to hear a formal response from the state today on how far the governor is willing to go in negotiations over salary and related issues.

"We want to make enough of a gain to show that the state is wiling to deal with the issues," said Joan Husted, the HSTA's chief negotiator. "Organizationally, the teachers of Hawaii want to settle and go about the business of educating the state's children."

The HSTA says it wants to continue talks on salary, but Gov. Ben Cayetano said the 9 percent increase being offered by the state is what it can afford to pay teachers, as well as other public employees in unions.

"The offer we made to the teachers is something we could apply across the board," Cayetano told reporters yesterday.

Husted said that she and the state's chief negotiator have been in informal talks since the state submitted a salary proposal to the union Saturday. The union is looking for a combination of an annual across-the-board raise for teachers as well as incremental-step increases. She is expecting to hear a formal response today.

The state, putting its first salary offer on the bargaining table, is proposing no raises for the first two years of the contract, 4 percent for the third year and 5 percent for the fourth year.

The union had proposed a raise of 2 percent for each of the first two years of a proposed four-year contract and 3 percent for each of the last two years of the contract.

"The package we offered includes merit so it is a package that will not only give them a raise across the board, but incentives to improve themselves as they move up the salary schedule," Cayetano said.

The HSTA, which represents Hawaii's 11,000 public-school teachers, has been without a new contract for more than a year.

A union spokeswoman said the union is willing to continue negotiations.

"The proposal on the table isn't what our teachers want, isn't as much as they want or deserve," spokeswoman Danielle Lum said.

Further negotiations on the so-called "incentives" to move up in the salary schedule could also lead to an agreement on those issues, she said.

The state wants to emphasize wage increases for beginning teachers, said Davis Yogi, director of the state office of collective bargaining.

He said the state is offering a wage increase amounting to $3,700 at the end of their contract in 2002.

The amount is the same for all teachers -- $1,607 in 2001 and $2,092 in 2002.

But, Yogi stressed, the increases mean that teachers with a bachelor's degree would see their salary rise from $28,000 to almost $32,000 a year and teachers with a master's degree would get an increase from $32,000 to $35,000.

"This would bring more than 55 percent of the teachers a nine percent raise at the end of the contract," Yogi said.

Cayetano said the raise offered the teachers is a "benchmark" for other union negotiations.

The governor said he plans to sit down with state lawmakers to convince them that what he is offering teachers -- and eventually other unions -- is reasonable.

Cayetano said that even though the state is in good fiscal condition, it can't afford to pay the 14.5 percent increase awarded by an arbitrator to the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the largest public employee union.

Lawmakers have promised that the HGEA award would be funded next session.

The state is also in tenuous negotiations with the United Public Workers and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

An impasse has been declared in talks with the university professors, and the UPW has approved a strike vote.

"If the HGEA award is funded and goes through, the other unions are going to shoot for the same thing. If I were in their shoes I would have the same reaction," Cayetano said.

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