Posted tagged ‘labor unions’

Will the HGEA contract set the standard?

April 7, 2011

It’s hard to say for sure without seeing the fine print, but the tentative agreement between the state and the Hawaii Government Employees Association announced yesterday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie seems a fair contribution by state and county workers toward reducing the state’s $1.3 billion deficit.

Basically, the 28,000 active white-collar workers represented by HGEA would swap their current deal of two furlough Fridays a month — the equivalent of about an 8-percent pay cut — for a straight 5-percent pay cut and six hours of personal time off a month. Workers would also pay 10 percent more of their health care premiums than they currently do.

The end of the disruptive furlough days that close state offices is welcome; the personal time off can be scheduled when mutually convenient and is far easier to manage without disrupting services.

The governor’s office said the deal saves the state about $65 million next fiscal year and $59 million the following year. If similar agreements are reached with other government unions it would increase the savings accordingly.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and some legislators raised concerns that the savings weren’t enough, but it’s what Abercrombie said he was shooting for all along and a substantial bite out of public worker pay checks — within the ballpark of what workers in the private sector are facing.

The governor needs at least one county mayor to go along to enact the deal, and presumably he wouldn’t have announced it if he didn’t have one. Hopefully, more details will be released as that is sorted out so we can more fully evaluate the fairness of the contract to workers and taxpayers.

The HGEA contract usually sets the rough terms for blue-collar workers represented by the United Public Workers.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which can’t seem to settle contracts anymore without a lot of drama, could be trickier, and President M.R.C. Greenwood at the University of Hawaii could find herself in a pickle with a six-year faculty contract she agreed to that requires UH to soon repay professors for the labor savings of the last two years and give them raises in the final two years.

Greenwood was betting that the economy would bounce back and it hasn’t happened. She won’t find it easy to get cash-strapped legislators to give the semi-autonomous university general fund money to pay for her promises.

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