“I cannot think of a single thing we did not do to try to accommodate the concerns of the teachers union in this agreement,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at a press conference last week about the vote by Hawaii teachers to reject a tentative contract with the state.

The teachers have an idea for something he could have tried to do: reduce their health-care costs. Health premiums doubled for some teachers last year after the state ended the Hawaii State Teachers Association‘s Voluntary Employees Beneficiaries Association Trust.

Teachers made no secret that the health-care increase was one of their biggest problems with the “last, best and final” offer the governor imposed last July. Another big point of contention was a 5 percent salary cut through 2013.

The new agreement reached earlier this month that would have replaced the imposed contract made no change to HSTA members’ share of their health premiums, and kept in place the 5 percent wage cut. The health-care split and wage cut reflected an earlier agreement with the state’s largest public union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association. That union won a commitment from the governor that if he gave a better deal to any other union its members would get the same thing. Principals are members of the HGEA.

The pay cut and jump in health costs were not mitigated, in their opinion, by the fact that the now-rejected agreement offered annual “step” increases of 1 percent beginning in July 2013, contingent on a teacher earning an “effective” or better rating on a not-yet-developed performance evaluations.

“Lots of anger at loss of money in REAL terms,” wrote one teacher whom we granted anonymity. (Read Civil Beat’s Anonymous Sources Policy.) The teacher feared retaliation and wouldn’t share opinions otherwise.

“Pittance raise but MORE lost in 50/50 health so year 2013-14 is back below ’09. Many on fence still. Very complex to figure out REAL salary & MANY unknowns.”

Was there more the governor and his team of negotiators could have done? Yes. Were they obligated to do more? No. But it’s a stretch to say the state tried everything to accommodate teachers’ concerns. There were things the state clearly felt it couldn’t try to do.

In the end, both sides made concessions, but teachers felt the state hadn’t made its fair share.

Whether that perception was because union leaders didn’t effectively communicate the “positive aspects” of the agreement to teachers, as Abercrombie said on Friday, is another issue.

The Bottom Line: Abercrombie is incorrect in stating that there is “not a single thing we did not do to try to accommodate the concerns of the teachers union.”

He may not be able to think of one, but HSTA members certainly can.

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