Saturday, July 28, 2001

Resolve contract dispute;
punish sloppy negotiators

The issue: The state and the teachers'
union are engaged in a war of words
over a provision for bonuses.

Printed below are letters from Davis Yogi and Karen Ginoza, respectively the state's chief negotiator and the Hawaii State Teachers Association's president, who are locked in a struggle over who said what to whom and when while negotiating a new contract for public school teachers during their strike last spring.

The letters are further evidence, if such be needed, that this negotiation has been slipshod almost beyond belief. Untangling the mess at this stage would be next to impossible. Therefore, three steps toward resolution are in order: 1) Carve the disputed provision out of the contract so that the rest can be settled and the teachers can draw their new pay; 2) Enlist a mediator to find a compromise solution to the argument over the bonus; and 3) Governor Cayetano should seriously consider asking for Yogi's resignation and the HSTA should seriously consider asking Joan Husted, its principal negotiator, to resign.

The slovenly, careless manner with which this contract was concluded will cost the taxpayers, parents and school children, one way or another. Those responsible for a foul-up of this magnitude should be held accountable.

State should live up to wording of contract

After nearly a year of negotiations, after a three-week strike that caused many emotional, financial and academic hardships, and after the jubilation of supposedly reaching a contract settlement, the 13,000 public school teachers of our state are no better off now than they were a year ago.

Our teachers still have no contract because the state has continually backpedaled away from its pledge -- in writing -- that the 3 percent pay differential for teachers with professional diplomas or approved master's degrees will be fully funded for two years.

This has paralyzed the entire settlement contract and all our hard-won guarantees. For example, teachers who are entitled to advance in the salary structure due to the settlement cannot. Teachers who would have retired earlier this year based on figures in the settlement cannot. The retention bonus that was to be distributed on July 5 was not.

Broader matters are also stalled. Accountability and education quality issues such as the Peer Advisory Review cannot advance.

Department of Education incompetence and the state negotiator's inattention are at the root of this intolerable paralysis. The state agreed to the terms of the bonus back in 1995 pending funding. Yet the department failed to count and cost the number of teachers who would qualify for the 3 percent differential, and it had six years to do so. The DOE, not teachers, maintains the state's personnel records and payroll. Additionally, the state negotiator has publicly admitted he failed to read the settlement closely enough. The state made a mistake and rather than take responsibility for it, they want the teachers to pay for it.

The state has lately shown an alarming tendency to renege on good faith agreements. It did so with the Hawaii Government Employees Association and now it is doing the same to us. This is about fairness, trust and integrity. A deal is a deal.

The whole point of the 3 percent pay differential for teachers with professional and master's degrees is to keep Hawaii competitive in attracting and retaining qualified teachers. Many mainland school districts offer similar measures. Hawaii must follow suit to keep pace. Without a pay differential, a demoralizing message is sent to anyone teaching or thinking about teaching in Hawaii: you are not valued. Who wants to work for a boss like that?

On Aug. 23 classes will re-open for all schools. We wish the state would honor its word and fully fund both years of the pay differential, just as the settlement contract states in plain language so we all can get on with the real job at hand: teaching our students.

Karen Ginoza
President, Hawaii State Teachers Association

State approved bonuses for only one year

It is important to explain what led to our current contract dispute.

During negotiations, School Superintendent Paul LeMahieu proposed a one-time 3-percent bonus for teachers with Master's of Education degrees and professional diplomas from the University of Hawaii's College of Education. The Department of Education would cover the cost with $6.7 million in federal funds. The amount available was only enough to cover the cost for one year.

The math is simple. Every year, the teacher payroll is a half-billion dollars. We estimated that 40 percent of teachers qualify for this bonus, or $200 million. Three percent of $200 million is $6 million.

The state offered Dr. LeMahieu's proposed bonus to HSTA negotiators, who agreed on April 23. The $6 million was always represented as the cost for one year. The $6 million is what appears on the union's flier passed out at ratification. The HSTA flier should have listed the bonus at $12 million if the union believed it was for two years.

HSTA wrote up the 11-page agreement that its teachers ratified on April 24. Somehow, in the union's haste in getting the proposal ratified, the erroneous language was included. Regrettably, the mistake was not caught when the write up was completed at 5 a.m. on the day the teachers voted. However, it is incorrect and deceptive to say that the state is "reneging on a deal" or to say that this bonus was "promised" for two years. The state never agreed to pay for the bonuses for two years.

During the state's review, we discovered that the agreement did not reflect the deal reached on April 23. The governor did not approve it, and the state objected to the union on May 1. The governor has said the state will fund bonuses for one year even if it costs up to $10 million. This is 50 percent more than originally expected. The true cost has been difficult to resolve because the union has demanded that the pool of those who qualify for the bonus include teachers with virtually any master's degree or professional diploma and some with bachelor's degrees.

For the state to give in and expand the bonuses to two years would cost taxpayers $14 million more. This is money the Legislature did not provide for when it set aside $115 million in the budget for the teachers' contract. This means money will have to be taken from existing education programs to pay for an additional bonus never intended by the state and Board of Education.

Davis Yogi
State's chief labor negotiator in teachers' contract

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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