Thursday, September 20, 2001

HSTA logo

Gov clears deck
on teachers’ pay

However, a bonus for teachers
with advanced degrees
remains in dispute

By Crystal Kua

Carrying out the teachers contract -- all but a disputed section -- will help the state clear away issues and focus on the economic crisis facing Hawaii after last week's terrorism attacks.

That was the reason Gov. Ben Cayetano agreed to give the teachers their pay raises and $1,100 retention bonuses.

"That's good to hear, especially in times like this," said Robynne Ching, a teacher and student services coordinator at Aliamanu Elementary School. "It's kind of sad about the tragedy where we're all kind of trying to explain things to our children. And the recession -- we need to do whatever we can to stimulate our economy."

HSTA President Karen Ginoza said the union has asked the Department of Education to expedite the process to get teachers the bonuses, step increases and pay raises retroactive to July.

Teachers get paid on the 5th and 20th of each month. HSTA chief negotiator Joan Husted said the union hoped the raises would be in the October 20th paycheck, but they aren't sure if it can be processed in time. State schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said the Personnel Division is working on getting teachers their money.

The contract, settled after a three-week teachers strike in the spring, remained in limbo as the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association disagreed over whether a 3 percent bonus for teachers with master's degrees or professional diplomas should be paid once or twice during the remaining two years of the contract.

The state says it agreed at the bargaining table to only a one-time bonus, while the union said the written language in the contract calls for the bonus to be paid during each of the last two years.

A one-time bonus would cost the state $9.7 million. Paying the bonus over two years would double the cost.

The state and the HSTA then took their dispute to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

The state's attorney notified the board yesterday that the governor was willing to implement the contract and have the board decide the advanced-degree bonuses dispute.

"In wake of what happened last week, the issue was brought into a lot greater focus, and the governor felt that we needed to address this issue and move on because the state has a lot of bigger issues to deal with at this time," Cayetano's press secretary, Kim Mur-akawa, said.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 22-24.

Ching, who was just walking up to the counter at the Aliamanu Elementary office, responded, "Hallelujah" when told that most of the contract would soon be implemented.

"I'm very happy," Ching said. "At least he's agreed to honor what he said he was going to do. I'm still a little bit disappointed that the 3 percent issue hasn't been resolved, but I know that our union is working very hard to get that matter resolved."

LeMahieu said he called the governor directly to thank him for implementing the contract.

"The credit and appreciation is due to him," LeMahieu said. "I think it's a very significant thing."

Implementing the undisputed sections of the contract will help with teacher morale and recruitment and retention issues, and enable the school to move on with the task of education, LeMahieu said.

"I long felt that we needed to show our appreciation and thanks to teachers with more than words," LeMahieu said.

Ching agreed: "We've been waiting a long time to be recognized for the job that we do, and we do work hard. For it to have come this far is a shame."

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