If you think the state’s legal battle with the Hawaii State Teachers Association is intense, wait until negotiations boil over with the United Public Workers, which represents more than 13,000 state and county blue-collar workers.
Talks with the UPW have produced little apparent progress since the old “Furlough Friday” contract expired July 1, and while the matter has dragged out, UPW members have enjoyed a windfall in their paychecks.
They’re out from under the furloughs without being subject to the 5 percent pay cuts that the white-collar Hawaii Government Employees Association agreed to and which were imposed on the teachers in the state’s “last, best and final offer” that is now before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
Also, UPW members are for now free from the increase in medical insurance premiums from 40 percent to 50 percent that was imposed on the other unions.
Apparently, the main reason UPW hasn’t been given a “last, best and final offer” like the HSTA is a stalemate between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the four county mayors.
Under state law, the governor has four votes and the mayors have one each on overlapping contracts, so the governor would need the agreement of at least one mayor to send a final offer to the UPW. So far he hasn’t had it, but there are indications he has recently won over a mayor and may be free to press the issue.
Any “last, best and final” offer would likely include a requirement that UPW members pay back the windfall they have received for three months; if UPW gets a better deal than the other unions, Abercrombie would have to extend it to HGEA under the “most favored nation” clause in its contract.
Members of UPW’s Unit 1 — custodians, cafeteria workers, laundry workers, etc. — have authorized a strike if the state imposes a contract as with HSTA, and union leaders have hinted they’ll maximize their leverage by calling it during the APEC conference, potentially shutting schools and halting vital services while President Barack Obama and other world leaders are in town.
Members of UPW’s Unit 10, health and correctional workers who don’t have the right to strike, will ultimately settle their contract by binding arbitration if there is no negotiated agreement.