On July 28, Gov. Neil Abercrombie was asked by reporters about contract talks with the United Public Workers and the possibility that union members would vote to authorize a strike.

The governor said he didn’t know anything about a strike vote. He also said this:

“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.”

Is it true that the state has not met with UPW?


Abercrombie’s labor negotiator, Neil Dietz, had a formal meeting with the union on July 22 — a week before the governor made his statement.

Neither side is saying what happened in that meeting. But Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz told us Thursday that the “key things” for the state in terms of the contract are a 5-percent salary reduction and a 50-50 split in employer-management health care costs. Those are the terms the state obtained from the Hawaii Government Employees Association and has imposed on teachers.

Dela Cruz added that the state and the UPW have not held a formal meeting since the July 22 session.

With nearly 14,000 mostly blue-collar members, the UPW is the third-largest union in the state and second in size to the HGEA in terms of public-sector unions.

HGEA’s agreement was reached well before the two-year contracts expired June 30. Meanwhile, the contentious dispute between the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association — the state’s fourth-largest union — has dominated headlines over the past eight weeks.

Little has been said, however, about the UPW’s contract, other than scattered news reports — like this one Aug. 3 — about a strike authorization vote for the nearly 9,000 members in Unit 1 that are permitted to strike. The union has raised the possibility of a strike during the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

That right to strike does not apply to Unit 10, which includes thousands of health care, prison and emergency workers who fall under binding arbitration.

A settlement offer for both units distributed in late July calls for the 5-percent wage cut and 50-50 split in health costs. The document, dated April 21 and obtained by Civil Beat, also calls for six hours in supplemental time off each month.

Calls to UPW’s state director, Dayton Nakanelua, and government affairs specialist, Florence Kong Kee, were not returned.

Until a new contract is agreed upon, UPW members receive wages and benefits at the same levels that were agreed upon in the contract that expired June 30.

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