Wednesday, March 28, 2001

University of Hawaii

UH faculty strike
likely, negotiator

By Treena Shapiro

University of Hawaii faculty don't want to strike on April 5, but they will, said union negotiator Jim Heasley as he entered a federal mediation session with state negotiators yesterday afternoon.

The meeting with a federal mediator was the second since University of Hawaii Professional Assembly members overwhelmingly approved a strike last week. On Friday, the session went longer than seven hours. Yesterday, talks broke off after three hours with no resolution.

"We don't want this to come to a strike, but if it has to, I think we're ready to do it," Heasley said.

Both J.N. Musto, UHPA executive director, and Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator, said nothing happened at yesterday's meeting, while both sides sat in different rooms as the federal mediator moved between them.

Musto said the governor's position has hardened since the union set a strike date.

"It doesn't look hopeful that there will be a settlement," he said. Without a settlement, it's unlikely that the strike will be averted.

Yogi said, however, "People are working hard to find a solution. How close, it's hard to tell at this point."

Unresolved issues include a loss of health and retirement benefits for the summer months faculty take off, intellectual property rights, community college faculty workload and pay raises.

For the next two years, the state has offered 7 percent pay raises, plus 3 percent in merit pay to UH-Manoa, West Oahu and Hilo faculty and $4,755 to community college faculty, with an additional 1 percent in merit pay.

The union has asked for 12 percent raises across the board.

The faculty union has alleged that the state budget through fiscal year 2007 has been padded by $1.6 billion.

Three UH faculty members arrived at this figure after speaking with the state finance director and analyzing the budget and supplemental worksheets.

According to Terry Gregson, director of the UH-Manoa School of Accountancy, there is money in the budget to fund raises for the UH faculty and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which also has set an April 5 strike date.

Gregson said the budget includes double entries for Social Security taxes at $30 million per year.

Undesignated funds also could be used for pay raises, including a $10 million "placeholder" for "must-fund other" and $30 million for legislative grants and additions.

"That's $70 million, and they're just add-ons," he said.

The union says pay raises to public employees also would bring in an additional $240 million in state taxes during the seven-year period.

It would cost $546 million over two years to fund pay increases for the UH faculty, public school teachers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, according to state Finance Director Neal Miyahira.

Miyahira acknowledged there is some overlap in the budget to account for such expenditures as new hires and pay raises, but he said "it's not great and it's nowhere near what they're characterizing as double-budgeting."

"If what Mr. Gregson said was true, the Legislature would have made an adjustment already," Miyahira said.

Miyahira maintains that the state does not have the resources to fund the contract demands from the public employee unions.

"The numbers are what they are. They're the best information that we have," he said. "The governor basically told everybody that we would have to go back into the budget to find resources to fund collective bargaining contracts."

University of Hawaii

UH Professional Assembly

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