Wednesday, August 1, 2001

HSTA waits
for details on
state’s bonus offer

The issue of extra pay for advanced
degrees remains unresolved

By Rod Antone

Negotiators for the teachers union are awaiting more information clarifying the state's latest proposal to resolve a contract dispute covering teacher bonuses.

Hawaii State Teachers Association officials are scheduled to explain the proposal to its membership next week but right now are still unclear on a few issues.

"Things like how many teachers are we talking about, how much is the true cost," said HSTA chief negotiator Joan Husted yesterday. "There will be no meeting, but they (the state) will be faxing us the information we need to get things clarified."

Both sides spent a few hours yesterday getting clarification on the state's latest offer at a state office building. After weeks of battling the issue in the media, state negotiators said the union's call for clarification is "fair" and that they had no problem with "providing examples" of what was meant in the proposal.

"I think we need to get back with them with certain information, but we're still talking, which is a good sign," said Winston Sakurai, Board of Education member and state negotiation team member.

"When we looked at the memo that the state sent over, we were not clear about what the alternatives were," said HSTA President Karen Ginoza. "We have asked for the clarification in writing so that we can discuss it with teachers on Monday."

The dispute over teacher bonuses is the sore point that keeps the ratified teacher's contract from being signed and keeps teachers from getting their pay raises. After a 19-day strike in April ended and a contract reached, the state and the HSTA continued to go back and forth about the cost of the bonuses and whether the bonuses were for one year or two years.

"The state will not ratify or sign an agreement that does not reflect what was understood in negotiations," said Gov. Ben Cayetano in a news release yesterday. "We've already agreed to increase the number of eligible teachers, raising the bonus cost from $6.7 million to as much as $10 million."

"Doubling this amount to pay the bonus for two years would not only cut into important educational programs, but it would run contrary to what was agreed upon," he said.

The HSTA estimates that of the union's 12,800 members, about 7,300 qualify for the 3 percent salary bonus for those who have master's degrees or professional diplomas. An HSTA spokeswoman estimated the bonus payout to be $20 million.

Ginoza would not go into the details of the state's latest proposal except to say, "It is still not a good proposal." However, Ginoza did refer to an "alternative proposal" in which "it does not state that the bonuses are for one year."

"We're still talking about it; that's all I can say," Ginoza said. "It's best that we not get into words of war."

In a meeting of the HSTA board last weekend, the state's proposal was sent back to negotiators and called "insulting" and "cynical" by union officials. A state spokeswoman said yesterday in a press release that the "state has put in place its best contract ever for Hawaii teachers," and refers to the bonus as "erroneous language" and a "mistake which was not caught when the write-up was completed at 5 a.m."

"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. That is absolutely untrue," the spokeswoman said. "The state never agreed to pay for the bonuses for two years."

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