Friday, June 22, 2001

HGEA pay veto
looms if talks
break down

The governor says he'll
deny raises if the members
don't agree to benefit cutbacks

By Richard Borreca

Calling the situation "very delicate," the state's chief labor negotiator, Davis Yogi, is in talks with Hawaii Government Employee Association members about lowering benefits for new members.

Cutbacks to sick leave and vacation benefits along with changes to the drug testing policy were to be part of the deal in return for Gov. Ben Cayetano agreeing to an arbitrated pay raise.

Cayetano said he would retain the power to veto the HGEA pay bill if the union didn't agree to the contract changes.

Now the Legislature, which also agreed to the pay raises, is watching the negotiations and telling Cayetano that they would move to override any veto of the HGEA pay raises.

Senate President Robert Bunda (D, North Shore) said the HGEA pay bill "is of concern for all of us."

If Cayetano vetoes it, Bunda said it would likely trigger an override. "There would be some serious talk," Bunda said. "It would be a top priority to bring us all back."

Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said yesterday that the pay raise bill "is one that was singled out" for a possible veto override.

Reps. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa), Democratic leader, and Sylvia Luke (D, Pauoa), House vice speaker, both agreed, saying that a pay raise veto would not stand.

"If the governor was to veto the pay bill, there would be strong support to override that veto," Oshiro said.

Luke said the Legislature would need a two-thirds majority in both House and Senate to return for a veto override. The Legislature has not overridden a gubernatorial veto in 40 years.

Earlier this week, the HGEA issued a statement denying that Cayetano would veto the pay raise if all the HGEA units don't agree to the cutbacks, called "memorandums of agreement."

"The governor is treating the MOAs on a unit-by-unit basis," HGEA officials said in a press release. "So the outcome of one unit's negotiations over the leave and drug policy issues will not affect another unit's agreement."

Yogi, however, declined to confirm the HGEA release.

So far the HGEA's Unit 2, blue-collar supervisors, and Unit 4, white-collar supervisors, have proposals from the administration.

Unit 9, registered nurses, and Unit 13, professional and scientific employees, have concluded negotiations over the cutbacks and have ratification meetings scheduled.

The most difficult negotiations appear to be with Unit 3, white-collar employees.

Yogi said he is trying to keep the negotiations on the cutbacks on track and not let HGEA employees feel that they are being forced to bargain.

But lawmakers are saying Cayetano's power to veto the negotiated contract is a separate issue from contract cutbacks proposed by the administration.

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