Hawaii’s labor unions are scrapping over the last crumbs of the budget pie.

Members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association say they are being hit harder by pay cuts than members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, but a Civil Beat analysis shows the salary reductions for the two unions are comparable.

The Legislature earlier this year told each state department that they would be responsible for negotiating a 5 percent labor savings with their union members for the next two fiscal years. As of June 23, HGEA with its 42,000 members was the only union that had reached an agreement that meets the Legislature’s restrictions.

But Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi told the Department of Education‘s 12,700 teachers on June 24 that they would face a 1.5 percent pay cut and leave without pay on certain non-instructional days (read: furlough days).

Her memo to teachers states that the total temporary wage reduction would be equivalent to 5 percent. She and Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced that they would move forward to implement this, their “last, best, final offer,” regardless of HSTA approval. The union did not ratify the new contract, and the state did go ahead and implement it effective July 1.

HSTA grievance representative Beatrice DeRego-Coffield told Civil Beat that the teachers’ pay cut is deeper than the cut HGEA members received, because HGEA workers are also receiving nine days of paid leave.

But based on the information available, it appears the discrepancy between the two contracts is one of semantics, not substance.

HSTA:

  • A 1.5 percent reduction in base pay for teachers.
  • Acceptance of leave without pay on certain non-instructional days (furloughs). This, combined with the 1.5 percent salary reduction, would be equivalent to a total salary cut of 5 percent.
  • An equal contribution — 50-50 split between teachers and the state — for teachers’ for health benefits.
  • Additional time carved into each school week for lesson preparation

HGEA:

  • A 5 percent reduction in base pay for public employees.
  • Nine days of paid leave.
  • An equal contribution — 50-50 — for public workers’ health benefits between public employees and the state and county governments.

Beatrice DeRego-Coffield told Civil Beat on Friday that HGEA got the better deal because they got nine days of paid leave. But it’s essentially a wash: teachers take a smaller salary cut, but take their leave without pay. Matayoshi has not said how many days of leave teachers will take to achieve the total 5 percent labor savings.

The union has said it plans to take legal action against the state for taking its final offer public without union agreement — a move DeRego-Coffield says violates the “good faith” requirement in collective bargaining. As of Tuesday afternoon, the union had not sent a letter to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

Matayoshi told Civil Beat on Tuesday she can’t speak about the new contract. The most important parts are the ones contained in her memo to teachers, she said.

“It seems like the details should be public if it’s already being implemented,” we responded, but she held her ground.

“Nice try, but I cannot talk about it.”

Don Horner said the same: “I have no statement to make about the teachers contract.” He’ll probably issue a press release in the next day or two.

About the Author