UPDATED 1/9/12 6:25 p.m.

With a tentative agreement reached between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the state, a hearing set for this week in their contentious labor case has been cancelled.

The union and state have been battling before the state’s Labor Relations Board since August, after Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed a “last, best and final” contract offer on teachers in July.

HSTA attorney Herb Takahashi has already grilled several witnesses, including Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, state chief negotiator Neil Dietz, Hawaii State Board of Education Chairman Don Horner and state budget director Kalbert Young. Last Thursday, lawyers scheduled the state’s budget administrator to be next on the stand this Wednesday.1

But on Friday, the union and state reached an “agreement in principle.” The two sides are still working on the language, but more details are expected to be posted on the members-only portion of HSTA’s website on Tuesday, and a ratification vote is scheduled for late next week.

Meanwhile, this week’s hearing has been removed from the labor board’s calendar, the executive director for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations told Civil Beat.

Labor relations director Valerie Kunimoto said she could not say anything else about the case, except that the hearing dates scheduled for Jan. 25 and Jan. 31 are still on the calendar.

Civil Beat’s inquiries to HSTA lawyer Herb Takahashi and the state’s attorneys were not immediately returned.

A statement from the governor’s office implies the new deal might have been precipitated by a recent federal crackdown on the state for its lack of progress on Race to the Top goals.

HSTA has kept a pretty tight lid on the agreement, so details are scant. Even Young, the state’s budget director, told lawmakers on Monday that he has yet to see the proposed agreement and its financial impact.

We do know a few things, though:

  • This contract will replace the governor’s “last, best and final” offer currently in place
  • It will be a longterm agreement, to last six years
  • It may include a “favored nation” clause
  • It may include pay raises
  • There will be no random drug testing of teachers (it’s worth noting that Abercrombie’s “last, best and final” offer did not include random drug testing, either)

What we don’t know yet:

  • Exactly how it will affect the union’s case before the labor board in the long run (including whether HSTA will withdraw its case)
  • When any pay raises will kick in
  • Whether teachers will still be expected to pay 50 percent of their health premiums

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