BY JIM DOOLEY – Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle says city officials “still have many questions and concerns” about the statewide labor agreement reached by Governor Neil Abercrombie with Hawaii’s largest government workers union.
Abercrombie announced the accord with the Hawaii Government Employees Association Wednesday afternoon and Carlisle said he “received the written provisions of the formal settlement offer today.”
Abercrombie said the proposed settlement includes a five per cent pay cut, a 10 per cent increase in employee payments for health insurance benefits and eliminates the two-days-per-month work furloughs now imposed on government workers.
He said the pact would save the state $124 million in labor costs next two fiscal years.
The deal also includes a provision for up to 9 paid administrative leave days per year for government workers.
Abercrombie’s office declined to discuss other details of the contract, which still must be ratified by the 28,000-member HGEA.
The governor wouldn’t say today if the proposed deal includes “step movements” commonly built into public employee contracts which provide for annual incremental salary increases based on a public worker’s seniority.
Carlisle said the paperwork he received from Abercrombie does not include a provision for step increases.
One retired state official asserted that the pay cut may push some government workers into retirement.
Furlough days now imposed on public workers do not diminish future retirement benefits, but the proposed pay cut would, the retiree said.
Abercrombie refused comment on that issue.
Carlisle, however, noted that pension benefits “are tied to an employee’s base pay” and he said “over 10 percent of the current workforce is eligible to retire this year.”
Hawaii’s four county mayors issued an opaque statement today about the proposed HGEA contract.
“This is a statewide agreement, and therefore must meet the divergent needs of each of the employer groups involved,” the joint statement said.
“All mayors or their representatives are willing to discuss with HGEA the details of how the various elements may be implemented for our individual counties. We anticipate there will be the potential of a master agreement, and then supplemental agreements to provide for flexibility within each county,” said the mayors.
State Rep. Gene Ward, head of the Republican minority membership in the state House of Representatives, disputed Abercrombie’s assertion that the new labor contract would save money.
Two monthly furlough days meant nearly a 10 per cent reduction in labor costs, said Ward.
A five per cent pay cut “will actually increase the cost of the state workforce,” Ward said.
“Governor Abercrombie’s math is pretty fuzzy when a net loss to state revenues is called a savings,” said Ward.