The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and the state have reached a consensus on the union’s next contract — a bargaining agreement that, officials proudly noted, doesn’t even go into effect until next year.

The two-year tentative agreement is contingent on $32 million in additional funding from the Legislature to support raises and benefits for the union’s 4,000 or so faculty members. UH President David Lassner stressed that students will not have to subsidize the raises if the Legislature chooses not to release that extra funding.

The agreement, according to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, came on the condition that it “not adversely affect tuition.”

UHPA, Abercrombie, Lassner contract

UHPA and state officials announce on June 27, 2014 that they’ve come to a contract agreement — more than a year ahead of schedule.

Alia Wong/Civil Beat

The union and state agreed to establish joint committees to come up with solutions to address various complex issues, such as child care benefits for employees and online and distance learning.

Abercrombie, along with UHPA’s longtime executive director J.N. Musto, Lassner and others, described the bargaining process as efficient and cordial, highlighting their ability to execute a deal well ahead of the due date. The early settlement will ensure more stability for the university as it undergoes budget planning and finalizes its economic commitments, Lassner said.

Abercrombie, who’s running for re-election and is behind in a recent Civil Beat poll, denied at a press conference on Friday that the timing of the agreement is politically motivated. The UHPA has endorsed Abercrombie.

“The agreement stands on its own,” he said, emphasizing that it still has to be ratified by faculty. “It shows what a good job I’m doing.”

Abercrombie reminisced about his experience as a member of the university’s first faculty union 44 years ago and touted the role UH plays in the state’s “social and economic fabric.”

Musto, who will retire soon after 35 years with the university, acknowledged that contract negotiations in years past have been tense and marked by “animus.”

“The tone of bargaining always played out like a kabuki dance,” he said, referring to a highly exaggerated form of Japanese drama. “This time there’s no kabuki.”

Musto in part attributed the smooth process to the fact that changes made to the agreement were small. According to David Duffy, UHPA’s president, stakeholders negotiated the agreement casually, while sitting around a coffee table.

That process, Duffy said, renewed his confidence in the negotiation process.

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