Lingle wants to make
good on money owed
to workers

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration estimates that the state owes about 9,600 prison guards, licensed practical nurses and blue-collar workers $4.5 million that was supposed to have gone into a deferred compensation plan.

The United Public Workers union never set up the plan, an administration spokesman noted, so the state has not paid the money as required by a four-year contract that began in 1999.

"The governor feels this is a debt that is owed, a commitment that will be honored and paid," said Ted Hong, the state's chief negotiator, who noted that the state is negotiating with UPW to make the back payments.

UPW officials did not return calls for comment.

The state is also negotiating on behalf of the counties. The Lingle administration has asked the state Legislature to set aside $4.5 million in next year's budget to pay the state workers.

The state Office of Collective Bargaining and the union are trying determine the exact amount due each employee.

"Both sides didn't want to wait any longer. We just wanted to pay the workers as soon as possible," said Rod Tam, a state deputy attorney general.

As part of the union's four-year contract with the state and the counties that started July 1, 1999, the employers agreed to put into a UPW deferred compensation fund $7 per employee per month beginning Jan. 1, 2001. The agreement requires the employers to contribute $132 per employee in 2001 and $156 in 2002.

There is some confusion over the monthly and yearly payments, and how much the counties owe is subject to negotiation.

UPW represents Unit 1, state and county blue-collar workers, and Unit 10, institutional, health and correctional workers.

Tam said deferred compensation obligations continue to accrue for Unit 1 workers but ended for Unit 10 members when the arbitrator awarded a new contract for those workers at the end of last year.

Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties have set aside the money that was supposed to have gone into the plan, but how much each county owes is subject to debate.

"We're still setting it aside until there's a plan to put into or we're instructed otherwise," said Deanne Sako, Hawaii County controller.

Hawaii County had 382 blue-collar workers employed on March 1, Sako said.

In 2001 the city questioned the legality of the deferred compensation plan, but the Hawaii Labor Relations Board threw out the city's complaint because it was filed too late.

The city has been setting aside the money that was supposed to have gone into the UPW deferred compensation plan, said Carol Costa, city spokeswoman. She said the city employs 1,909 blue-collar workers in Unit 1 and 194 nurses and ambulance workers in Unit 10.


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