[ TEACHER STRIKE ]
TeachersThe state is considering a new proposal by the teachers union as both sides decide not to make public statements about the status of negotiations aimed at averting a strike Thursday.
State and union agree to
news blackout on talks,
but little else
The state considers a new offerBy Crystal Kua and B.J. Reyes
from teachers as Thursday's
strike deadline looms
Negotiators on both sides said the imposition of a blackout on bargaining information is necessary to move talks along.
"Let us do our job," said Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
But others say that the progress of the talks is a matter of public interest across the state, especially for the thousands of people other than teachers who will be affected by a strike.
"Well, it's unfortunate that parents will apparently be left in the dark until the last minute," said John Friedman, president of the Hawaii State Parent Teacher and Student Association.
The state is offering a 10 percent to 20 percent wage increase with an average 12 percent increase.
The total cost of the package is $67 million.
The union's only formal proposal has been at 22 percent, with a cost of $260 million.
During the weekend, the union completed calculating the cost of the proposal. While both sides did not meet face to face, they spoke informally by telephone.
Although no details were provided, the proposal comes on the heels of HSTA officials saying last week that the union would be willing to settle the contract for a total cost of $161 million.
At a teachers' vigil last night, Ginoza refused to talk about bargaining. "A blackout is a blackout," Ginoza said.
Despite a light drizzle, a few hundred union supporters lined Beretania Street outside the governor's mansion, waving flashlights and carrying signs but maintaining their silence amid the honking horns of passers-by.
As the vigil got under way, organizers asked union supporters to maintain silence to show their unity and send a message to the governor.
One organizer asked teachers to even refrain from speaking to the media to maintain the silent vigil.
Waving a flashlight and clad in a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Teachers stand together," teacher Tammy Shaw said she did not expect the event to force a settlement, but instead show that the teachers remained united in their plans to strike.
"We're ready to do what it takes no matter how long it takes," said Shaw, a teacher at Mauka Lani Elementary School in Upper Makakilo. "I don't think the HSTA has ever had the support of the teachers that they have now."
She said she was not optimistic that a settlement would be reached in time to avert a walkout.
Sam Moore, an organizer with the HSTA Windward Chapter, said the media blackout might prove to be beneficial.
"The parties have to do what the parties have to do. It shouldn't be controlled by media pronouncements," he said. "Bargain at the bargaining table, not in the media."
He said the news blackout would have little effect on strike plans.
"We're prepared. We're ready. If we have to do it, we'll do it," he said. "They don't want to strike, but they will if they're forced. I've never seen such resolve as I see with the teachers this time."
Sharalyn Richards, a teacher at Mokapu Elementary, said the mood among her peers was "pensive," adding that the teachers plan to stick together.
"With no news coming from the negotiating committees, it make us more convinced that we'll be walking."
Ginoza said the union will continue with its public relations campaign including last night's vigil.
Both sides argued their case to the public in the media in recent weeks, spending thousands of dollars on television and newspaper advertisements, brochures and other paraphernalia.
The state's chief negotiator, Davis Yogi, said with the strike deadline so close, the focus now is returning to bargaining.
"We're talking to each other rather than through others," Yogi said, referring to the media.
Friedman said because parents are not party to the negotiations, they have to stay tuned to news accounts to find out the latest on the negotiations and how it might affect them.
"At this very moment, parents are trying to make alternative arrangements for their children," he said. "There's a tremendous shortage of day care facilities and community programs, and not knowing adds to the average parent's already stressful life."
Friedman said his organization supports the efforts of both sides to reach an agreement and avert a strike, but "it would certainly be nice to know if progress is being made, whether the sides are hopeful that the impasse will come to an end, or whether we should prepare for worse."
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site
The Hawaii Labor Relations Board has reversed an earlier declaration that 322 special-education teachers be considered essential workers during a strike.
teachers may strike
The state Labor Board reversesBy Crystal Kua
itself in ruling for the teachers union
In a decision released late yesterday, the board said it was suspending the essential-worker declaration for these teachers because the Department of Education failed to provide an adequate plan to show how these teachers would be used to prevent harm from coming to the neediest students.
The plan supplied a list of teachers' names and the schools and students they would be assigned to.
"Obviously a plan is more than just names and positions and number of students," said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza.
Yesterday's decision means that these teachers will not have to report to work in the event of a strike.
"It makes it harder to the get the required number of staff that we would need to open and provide services," department spokesman Greg Knudsen said.
"But the general game plan will remain the same because no class will resume unless there is sufficient staffing, and that includes the ability to provide for students with special needs."
Attorney General Earl Anzai said the state will ask the board to reconsider its decision.
"Why?" Ginoza asked. "(The decision) was very clear."
The Department of Education has 2,000 special-education teachers who provide services to 22,000 children.
But the department was seeking 322 special-education teachers to supervise a few thousand of the neediest in the special-education population.
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site