Saturday, June 23, 2001

Some HGEA units,
reach tenative

State workers agree to benefit
cuts for new hires, while
Cayetano concedes on pay raises

Richard Borreca

Four of seven Hawaii Government Employees Association units have reached tentative agreements with the state to reduce benefits for new hires and implement a "two strike" drug testing policy as part of a new pay-raise contract. Units 2, 3, 9 and 16 must still vote to ratify the contract. Units 4, 6 and 8 are still in negotiations.

The agreements are a compromise for both the Cayetano administration and the 24,000-member HGEA. It also removes a prime motivation for the Legislature to call itself back into session.

Cayetano had delayed approving the HGEA pay-raise bills while he signed pay raises for other public unions and the state continued negotiating on the cutbacks to new hires.

Cayetano yesterday said he had told HGEA last month he would not veto the 14.5 percent pay raises because the talks were continuing.

But the possibility of a veto waned last week when legislators told Cayetano they were willing to override his veto. House and Senate leaders said there would be strong support to override a veto of the HGEA pay raise because lawmakers felt they had an obligation to honor the pay-raise agreement.

"We recognize these negotiations are in addition to the arbitrated pay raise, and appreciate the leadership of the HGEA for proceeding in good faith," Cayetano said yesterday.

Cayetano originally said the pay raises were improper.

Currently, all state HGEA workers receive 21 days of vacation. Under the new agreement, new state HGEA workers will get 12 days of vacation for the first five years of work. After five years, workers will get 18 days of vacation. After 10 years, state workers will get 21 days off, which is what workers now get.

If new hires stick with the state for 20 years, however, they will get 24 days off -- more than current state workers get.

The sick-leave provisions for new workers also changed. State workers with the HGEA now get 21 days of sick leave a year. New workers will get 15 days for the first 10 years of service, then a sliding scale of increases up to 21 days for those working more years.

The last change is in the drug-testing policy. Currently, state workers can be dismissed if testing positive for illegal drugs for a third time; the changed contract calls for dismissal after a second positive test.

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