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Thursday, December 14, 2000

Unions urge
workers’ input
on planning

By Mary Adamski

Lawmakers and administrators from Hawaii's four counties were told by labor union officials that workers can help government operate efficiently if they are included in the planning process.

"We want to be part of the change, not just subjected to change," said Randy Perreira, deputy executive director of Hawaii Government Employees Association.

"We are not at the table," said Hawaii State Teachers Association vice president Joan Lewis. But teachers are forced to implement plans based on "discussions we had no part of ... and really don't make sense," she said in answer to a question about implementation of the Felix consent decree.

Lewis and Perreira spoke yesterday on a panel of labor representatives addressing a conference of the Hawaii State Association of Counties. The theme of the two-day meeting at Ala Moana Hotel was "Innovations for Hawaii's Economy."

No county or state initiative to encourage new technological businesses will work if the school system doesn't produce an educated workforce, said Alexander Malahoff, president of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. "We can't have a first-class university without first-class schools. No high-tech development is possible without a first-class university."

There is a labor shortage in Hawaii in the basic construction trades, said Bruce Coppa, managing director of the Pacific Resource Partnership of contractors and unions. "New carpenters are not coming out of the school system," he said, as graduates are lured by electronics or finance jobs.

"The challenge for 2001 is education," Coppa said. While seeking teachers and setting standards, the state also faces "a $600 million backlog in repairs and maintenance" in state schools.

Eric Gill, president of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 5, told the county officials that although his members are employed in the private sector, they are key components of government budgets. "The tourism money that stays here is in our members' pockets. Business owners are off-shore entities that don't always invest here. It's our workers who will be shopping, paying rent and buying houses."

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