UH building closures possible during breaks


POSTED: Friday, October 16, 2009

The University of Hawaii hopes to see utility savings by closing buildings during the winter and spring breaks if Hawaii Government Employees Association members approve a new two-year contract.

The tentative agreement for UH employees calls for a 5 percent pay cut this year and next year. There are no furlough days. Instead the union staff will get 13 paid days off during the winter and spring breaks, and the day after Thanksgiving.

Other HGEA units are not taking pay cuts; but they will take 18 unpaid “;furlough Fridays”; this fiscal year and 24 furlough days next year, which equals about a 7 percent less pay this year and a 9 percent next year.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said the deal means there will be no instructional days lost for students.

UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said the contract will save $7.5 million for the university if approved. She said the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly was offered a similar 5 percent pay cut with 13 days off. That deal was rejected by the faculty union.

Greenwood said the university hopes to save even more money on electricity, water and other costs by shutting down classroom buildings during the breaks, since staff who support instructors will not be at work.

Some essential HGEA members will still have to work during the break but will be given other days off, Greenwood said.

Evelyn Kamai, a division secretary voting on the contract at Leeward Community College yesterday, said she usually works on preparing for the next semester during the breaks.

“;It will just be harder because you have fewer days to do the same amount of work,”; she said.

But Kamai said she is voting to ratify the contract. “;It's a lot better than not having a job,”; she said.

“;It's good to be able to have the days off,”; said Linda Maeno, an information technology specialist at UH-West Oahu. “;You can spend time with your family on the days they are home.”;

“;I think it's better than what the governor proposed,”; said Matt McKnight, a security officer.

Greenwood said that negotiations with UHPA are continuing.

The union and university negotiators met with a fed-eral mediator Wednesday. But, Greenwood said, “;We did not make much progress.”;

Still, she said, “;We expect and hope we will have an agreement with our faculty union sometime in the near future.”;

During yesterday's Board of Regents meeting, Greenwood told the board the administration is considering its options after UHPA rejected the “;last, best and final”; offer from the university.

UH budget projections call for $44 million in salary savings over the next two years to help deal with budget cuts imposed by Gov. Linda Lingle and the Legislature.