Wednesday, November 14, 2001

HSTA tried to
renege on deal,
state says

The state begins outlining its
complaint before the labor board

By Crystal Kua

The deal that ended the three-week statewide teachers strike in April nearly unraveled the day after it was ratified by teachers, the state's chief negotiator testified yesterday.

Davis Yogi told the Hawaii Labor Relations Board that it was his belief that the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association agreed to eliminate two salary "steps" to raise the salaries of starting teachers but when he reviewed the written contract language hours before ratification, he read that only one step would be dropped.

"I was upset. I felt that we were re-negotiating something that we had already agreed to," said Yogi, who testified in a hearing aimed at resolving another contract dispute.

The state began presenting its case before the board yesterday in cross complaints filed by Gov. Ben Cayetano and the teachers union.

The two sides are at odds over whether a 3 percent differential that is supposed to be paid to teachers with master's degrees or professional diplomas should be paid once or twice.

Implementation of the rest of the contract, including pay raises and $1,100 retention bonuses, was held up because of the disagreement but Cayetano agreed to carry out all the undisputed sections of the contract in September.

Both sides filed prohibited-practice complaints with the labor board, alleging that the other side bargained in bad faith over the bonuses.

The state is arguing in part that no agreement exists on bonuses because there was no meeting of the minds between the state and the HSTA during contract negotiations last spring.

But the union contends that both sides reached an agreement that was subsequently put in writing, and the labor board should compel the state to execute that written agreement.

The labor board hearing has also given observers a behind-the-scenes look at the teachers contract negotiations.

The day after teachers ratified the contract, the HSTA and Yogi met again, this time to find a resolution to the beginning salaries question.

The HSTA told Yogi that it would be willing to remove the second step if the state would increase retention bonus for soon-to-be retiring teachers, Yogi testified.

"I was kind of upset because here we settled an agreement to end the strike and to have someone try to re-negotiate retention bonus for those who retired that year," Yogi said.

He said he then took HSTA President Karen Ginoza aside.

"I had a private conversation with her and said, 'Look, I informed the governor about what had happened and he had authorized me to withdraw the total contract if the second step was not dropped,'" Yogi said.

Later that day, he testified, he received a call saying the union agreed to drop the second step.

"The following day I memorialized that understanding in writing," he said.

Yogi said a couple of months later he found out there was another problem with the contract, this time with the 3 percent differential for advanced degrees.

Yogi reiterated his position that the state agreed to only a one-time payment at a cost of about $6 million, which he said was a figure the HSTA arrived at.

The union has insisted that the differential was to be paid in each of two years.

Yogi testified about the different proposals that went back and forth to try and resolve the dispute.

"There's no meeting of the minds," he said.

The hearings continue Monday.

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