The state says the Hawaii Labor Relations Board should reject the Hawaii State Teachers Association‘s request that pay cuts and health care premiums be restored because the state does not have the money to pay for them.

If forced to do so, the state warns mass layoffs would be the result — something the state says would not be “in anyone’s best interests.”

The latest development in the impasse between the state and the teachers union comes in a 70-page response filed Monday with the HLRB.

In the filing, Attorney General David Louie argues that the HSTA is trying to “derail” the Hawaii Legislature‘s constitutional authority over the state’s budget.

“In this case, one union seeks to derail that process, by claiming that the Employer’s consistent acknowledgment of fiscal realities amounts to a failure to bargain in good faith,” Louie writes. “It is also illogical, for what would either party gain if the true fiscal situation of the Employer were not plainly stated during negotiations?”

Standoff Continues

The teachers union and state have been in a standoff over a new contract that Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed on July 1 without union ratification. The union filed a labor complaint, and a separate request for relief from the terms of the new contract until the disagreement is settled.

The Department of Education employs about 23,000 workers, more than half of whom are teachers. About 65 percent of the DOE’s budget is for labor costs.

In Monday’s filing, the state says a restoration of HSTA pay and benefits under the contract that expired June 30 — as well as an elimination of furloughs imposed by the state — could force the state to lay off some 700 employees.

The financial reality, Louie argues, is that “the State does not have the money.”

“This is not a threat,” Louie writes. “It is an unfortunate—and honest—financial reality.”

HSTA President Wil Okabe could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

The HLRB has set a hearing on the motion for Aug. 10.

On Friday, the HLRB will hold a closed-door meeting on the the HSTA’s main complaint that the state negotiated in bad faith. The state rejects that argument, too, saying Abercrombie has no choice but to impose a new contract because talks had reached an impasse.

Meanwhile, a public hearing on the complaint is set for Aug. 15.

Federal Funding Threatened

Louie makes clear that teacher layoffs could lead to serious repercussions.

“The necessity of mass layoffs — which the Department sincerely hopes to avoid — amply explains why granting the interlocutory relief HSTA requests would be against the public interest,” he argues. “Layoffs of teachers would result in larger class sizes, which would then compromise the quality of education provided to all students.”

The filing also states that mass layoffs could result in the loss of federal funds and greater difficulty fulfilling federal special education requirements.

“Such a mass layoff is not in anyone’s best interests. Nor would the layoff of so many employees assist in the recovery of Hawaii’s economy.”

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