Come Friday, some state and county government workers could see their salaries revert to pre-furlough levels if new labor contracts aren’t in place. But the state’s budget director cautions that the state can’t afford to pay the 2009 salary rates for long and that ultimately, 5 percent labor savings would have to be achieved for the entire fiscal year.

Existing contracts expire Thursday for thousands of members of the United Public Workers union, Hawaii State Teachers Association and professional nurses represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association. The furlough days agreed to in those contracts are equivalent to about an 8 percent pay cut.

Lawmakers built in 5-percent labor savings across its unionized work force — totaling $88.2 million — into the state’s operating budget for fiscal 2012, which starts Friday.

“For those who think they’ll get a bounce back in pay, it’s just setting the state up for increasing the complexity of negotiating because there is not enough money to make it through the fiscal year paying full wages and a 60-40 split for health coverage,” Kalbert Young, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, told Civil Beat Tuesday. “Whatever labor savings get negotiated into the contracts, they’ll have to basically make sure that amount will equal out to a 5 percent labor savings — at minimum — for the entire year.”

Negotiations for the three unions are at various stages:

  • UPW: Negotiations are ongoing. The union represents about 14,000 blue-collar workers across the state, including county employees.

  • HSTA: The state Department of Education has said it plans on Friday to unilaterally impose its “last, best and final” offer to the HSTA’s 12,700 members, including a combination of a 1.5 percent salary cuts and unpaid time off that amounts to a 5 percent pay cut.

  • HGEA Unit 9: The union has informed the Hawaii Labor Relations Board that negotiations are at an impasse for its approximately 900 nurses. HGEA’s six other bargaining units approved a new two-year contract in April, agreeing to 5 percent pay cuts, nine additional paid days off per year, and a 50-50 contribution from government and union workers on health-care costs.

UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua did not return Civil Beat’s requests for comment.

HGEA spokeswoman Jodi Endo Chai said the union expects an arbitration hearing could be set for September or October.

In an email to Civil Beat, HSTA President Wil Okabe said its “negotiations team is ready to continue talks.” He added: “It is disappointing that the superintendent walked away from the state’s promise to make education a priority. We want our members, our students and their parents to know that we remain committed to bringing negotiations to a successful conclusion to provide the supports teachers need to teach and students need to learn.”

Follow Civil Beat on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for Civil Beat’s free daily newsletter.

Comments