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The state inked another union contract Monday, the latest deal to come down before the legislative session comes to a close this week.
The deal includes consecutive 2 percent pay raises starting Oct. 1 and thereafter every April 1 and Oct. 1 for the duration of the contract. It also boosts health benefits, shifting the employer share to 60 percent from 50 percent.
The state is backing away from its hardened stance with unions after four years of furloughs, higher medical premiums and pay cuts during the recession. But the high cost of changing this course means a lack of money to put toward new initiatives.
Publicly funded preschool, for instance, was Abercrombie’s top legislative priority this year but lawmakers said they don’t have enough money in the budget to launch it the way he envisioned in large part due to union contracts costing more than expected.
The governor had wanted to secure $32 million so 3,500 late-born kids would have access to preschool who won’t because the state is ending its junior kindergarten program next year. Budget negotiators agreed last week to include $7.16 million, enough for 900 kids, calling into question the timing of establishing the ultimate goal of a publicly funded preschool system for all 18,000 4-year-olds in Hawaii.
Abercrombie didn’t want to discuss the financial numbers behind the UPW Unit 1 agreement at his press conference Monday.
But his April 19 memo to lawmakers says the contract would cost $19.9 million for salaries and benefits over the next two years, and $60 million for fiscal years 2016-17. The general fund cost of the four-year agreement is roughly $50 million.
There are 13 bargaining units that represent roughly 116,000 public workers in Hawaii, making it one of the nation’s top three most unionized states.
Most elected officials depend on this union support to get in office and stay there. Abercrombie, who announced his bid for re-election two hours before the UPW press conference, and the mayors who joined him Monday — Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu, Bernard Carvalho Jr. of Kauai and Alan Arakawa of Maui — are no exception. Carvalho sported a purple shirt in solidarity with the roughly 30 UPW workers who attended the press conference.
The unions that have reached new contract agreements with the state this year have done so with overwhelming support from members.
The UPW Unit 1 agreement was backed by 97 percent of the members who voted to ratify it.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association and the governor signed a new four-year contract April 18 backed by 95 percent of the union’s members who voted. That deal is expected to cost $330 million to $370 million.
An arbitrator in December awarded UPW Unit 10, which represents 2,700 health and correctional employees, 3.2 percent raises for the last half of the current fiscal year at a cost of $8 million. The state and union have yet to negotiate a contract for the next two years.
Hawaii Government Employees Association’s Unit 9, which includes some 1,500 registered nurses, is in a similar situation. An arbitrator awarded the unit — the only not to settle in 2011 — an 8 percent pay raise for the rest of the current contract, which ends June 30. The union can now start negotiating its next contract.
HGEA Unit 6, which represents 700 educational officers, has not reached any agreement yet, according to Luis Salaveria, state deputy budget director.
The only other bargaining unit that hasn’t finalized a contract for the next two years is HGEA Unit 13, which includes 7,200 professional and scientific employees. But that could change soon.
Voting ends Tuesday for Unit 13 members who are considering whether to accept the state’s settlement agreement. The negotiating team says the offer does not meet their priorities.
The terms of the employer’s offer include salary increases of approximately 4 percent each year and a 60-40 split for health insurance premiums. HGEA says it will not comment publicly on the details of the offer, as the negotiating team would like to present all the information to members at the ratification meetings.
The state says the deal would cost $71.5 million over the biennium for salaries plus $8.2 million for benefits.
Meantime, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents more than 4,000 faculty members, is in the midst of a six-year contract approved in 2010 that includes pay raises for the next two years.