Thousands of Hawaii’s public workers could miss out on pay raises after the Legislature was suspended indefinitely last week.
Several measures that appropriated funds to cover those raises are still pending in the Legislature, which adjourned indefinitely last week in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.
An estimated 28,300 public employees, all represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association, won’t be getting pay bumps or retroactive pay increases if those bills don’t move. University of Hawaii faculty also won’t receive a small salary increase covered under their contract.
After the Legislature voted to suspend the 2020 session March 16, House Speaker Scott Saiki said lawmakers would only reconvene in the event of an emergency. But when Sen. Clarence Nishihara tested positive for COVID-19 March 19, lawmakers shuttered their offices indefinitely.
An HGEA spokesman did not respond to multiple calls on Tuesday for comment on what the union’s plans are moving forward. HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira also did not respond to a message Wednesday.
Those units up for raises include various administrative, professional and technical employees at University of Hawaii, registered nurses, scientific employees, and state law enforcement officers and lifeguards.
Bargaining Units 2, 3, 8 and 9 all ratified their agreements between September and January, according to written testimony from the state Department of Budget and Finance. Bargaining Unit 4 ratified its agreement March 3.
Lawmakers already budgeted more than $46.1 million for this fiscal year to cover retroactive pay increases for those units of employees that didn’t see raises because their contracts had to go through an arbitration process — which means they missed out on money from the Legislature last year.
There was also $63.9 million budgeted for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, to cover future salary increases.
Bargaining Unit 14, which includes lifeguards and state law enforcement, completed arbitration but there was no decision yet on dollar figures so they were not included in estimates provided by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.
Even after the Council on Revenues lowered the projection for state tax collections by $300 million earlier this month, the Legislature was still expected to fund the new agreements.
But that can’t happen as long as the Legislature is in limbo. Funding for increases requires legislative approval, according to the state law on collective bargaining.
In a video message posted on the union’s website, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira says the union plans to work with the state to address any shortage of personal protective equipment and is in the process of filing for hazard pay.
Perreira didn’t address the salary increases in the message. He said he is still working to address union members’ concerns.
“Please know we’re are doing everything we can on your behalf,” he said.
There’s still money in the state’s budget to pay the base salary for all public employees since lawmakers approved the biennium budget last year.
While UH faculty can still expect a 2% pay increase to go into effect July 1, their union was in the midst of negotiating a salary enhancement when the Legislature ended abruptly, according to Christian Fern, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.
The pay bump would be in addition to the 2% increase and is supposed to be in line with what the other bargaining units get. UHPA’s contracts are renewed every four years; they can, however, negotiate for the salary enhancement every two years.
“There is no immediate impact since decisions have not yet been made with the Legislature in recess,” Fern said.
UH faculty could get an extra 1.2% bump in pay, but it’s not clear how much money is needed to cover the increase since the union was still in negotiations when the Legislature recessed.
HB 2305, the funding measure for UHPA, could have been voted on as early as March 18.
Separately, the Department of Health also asked that $15.7 million be included for next fiscal year’s budget to cover salary adjustments for emergency medical services personnel.
HB 2236, the funding measure for that increase, was scheduled for a committee hearing March 17.
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