Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Thursday said he is open to “adjustments or mediation” to resolve the contract impasse with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, but he says the state hasn’t received any formal offer.

“I am always happy to entertain any counteroffers or other approaches that people want to take, but we don’t have anything. Nothing’s come up,” he said. “So, we have to move ahead, we are going to move ahead.”

As for the personal request from the HSTA’s Wil Okabe on Tuesday urging the governor to return to the negotiating table, Abercrombie said, “It’s not so much getting back to the table — the table was gotten to. The contract’s been implemented.”

The governor reiterated his message that teachers must sacrifice, and that calls for a 5 percent pay cut and an increase in health-care payments. The state imposed the terms on July 1 after saying negotiations reached impasse. The union has appealed to the Labor Relations Board.

“We’ve managed to move from being hundreds of millions of dollars in the red to at least being even starting with the fiscal year,” he said of the state’s budget. “And we’re going to have the health-care costs under control as best we can. … Yes, everybody is going to see that they’re paying more for their health-care costs, because it costs more. And we’re all in this together. … ”

The governor was asked to comment on the fact that Thursday was the first day of directed leave without pay — “where teachers were asked to stay away,” as a reporter put it.

“They weren’t asked to stay away,” the governor responded. “The contract indicated that the professional development day was one of the days that would be taken in lieu of pay. This was decided by the union folks themselves. … It’s regrettable, but we have to come up with the 5 percent savings. That will be the equivalent at the end.”

The dates for furlough days were announced in a letter from Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to teachers announcing the terms of the new contract.

UPW Strike Talk Is ‘Speculation’

Asked about news reports that the United Public Workers — another public sector union with an expired contract — might go on strike during the APEC conference in November, the governor said, “I don’t know anything about that at all. … We have not met with the UPW because they haven’t chosen to ever meet. Everything has been from their point of view off the record. It’s very difficult to negotiate when no one ever sits down to do it.”

He added, “I’m concentrating on good-faith negotiations, so any speculation about worst-case scenarios is just that — it’s speculation.”

The governor said he hoped to agree to a contract similar in terms to the one accepted by the Hawaii Government Employees Association this spring.

What about the HGEA’s most-favored nation clause? If UPW gest something better that HGEA, what happens?

The governor’s response: “I have no intention of asking someone to do something that I don’t ask from someone else.”

Comparison With D.C. Crisis

Abercrombie, who earlier in the day announced the state was preparing contingency plans in the event the nation defaults in the coming days, made a comparison between Hawaii and Washington.

“We’re not laying people off, we’re not causing anyone to have fear that we’re not addressing the cost needs directly,” he said.

And this:

“If you want to have the same thing happen in Hawaii, then we can do what is happening in Washington, where you can just borrow or pretend it’s not happening. But when I was elected I said it was going to be a new day — we are going to pay our bills, we’re going to be straightforward and honest with people about what the real situation is. We all have to put our paddle in the canoe and pull together.”

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