Thursday, March 29, 2001

union chief face
off on television

Cayetano and Ginoza get
12 minutes each to state their case,
but with no debate after

Hawaii State Teachers' Association
State of Hawaii Web site

By Mary Adamski

GOV. BEN CAYETANO said he is arguing his side in teacher contract talks in the public arena rather than at the bargaining table because he needs to defend the administration budget from being gutted.

"The problem we have is that legislators are concerned about this politically. They are looking at anything and everything they can cut to get raises," the governor said after taping a television talk yesterday.

"What I tell people is that we need to find balance in this thing. We need to fund education, but we've got to do something for the people who are the most vulnerable ... the disabled, our children."

His remarks repeated the theme of his 12-minute talk last night on KITV, KHON, KGMB and KHNL television stations, half of a program that gave Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza equal time but did not allow for debate.

Ginoza asked viewers "to join us in asking the governor to take another very hard and honest look, to ask his folks to think outside the box ... to not shut their minds to ideas or options."

Ginoza declined to answer questions about what was on the table at yesterday's bargaining session with the state.

"If we agreed to fund these pay raises, I would again be forced to cut programs for the poor, disabled and elderly -- programs which were hit hard the last time ... which I believe we should be restoring or even expanding," Cayetano said.

"Our children deserve new textbooks, computers and good facilities just as much as our teachers deserve good salaries. That's why we need to strike a balance."

The governor said he passed over the Department of Education in previous budget paring. For example:

>> Five hundred state workers were laid off. None was an educator.

>> All state department budgets were cut "to avoid cutting the Department of Education's budget."

>> Some 2,000 full-time positions were added to the Education Department while other departments were being reduced.

>> "We gave our teachers a well-deserved 14 percent pay raise" in 1997.

Cayetano said the state offer would give every teacher at least a 10 percent increase with the possibility to earn more through a professional-development program.

The governor said a starting teacher's pay would increase by 20 percent over two years, to $35,000 from $29,000.

Ginoza, however, responded that "what he doesn't say is that they will have to wait two years to get that increase."

The state offer provides that a teacher with a master's degree would go to nearly $40,000 from $31,000. A senior teacher would go to $64,000 from $58,000, Cayetano said.

"That will affect just 6 percent of teachers," said Ginoza. "The vast majority of teachers could still only hope to make $55,000, and they would still have to add a Ph.D. and 48 additional credits. The reality is that Hawaii does not offer competitive salaries."

She said an independent fact-finding panel reported that the state would have a surplus "even after wage increases obtained by other bargaining units and factoring in the Felix cost items."

Although much of her speech was about salaries, Ginoza repeatedly said "the issue is not about money.

"The reality is, our public schools are on the brink of a meltdown.

"We are ready and willing to go into federal mediation," she said. "No teacher wants to strike, but we will if we have no reasonable alternative. In all fairness to the governor, I do not believe he wants to see us strike."

The HSTA president referred to the "state's latest tactic to beat back teachers," a state complaint that the union is bargaining in bad faith because it has not moved from its original proposal, heard this week by the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

Cayetano was asked by a reporter about union allegations that the union will not get a fair hearing because two of the board's three members were his appointees and former staffers.

"Those two are independent thinkers," said Cayetano. "If they voted against the administration, I would not be surprised."

Asked about negotiations with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which has also voted to strike April 5, the governor told reporters, "We've probably resolved our differences with UHPA, but their leader has problems with me."

He did not name UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto, and said: "With me it's not a personality clash. The university is bigger than any individual. I think it could be settled, but if they're riling themselves up to strike."

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