Give and Take, Take, in Union Negotiations

The City & County of Honolulu and union representatives for firefighters, police, emergency responders, and the United Public Worker blue collar members are in negotiations to renew contracts expiring on June 30, 2011. Negotiations impact about 5,000 union members.

But the state has already wrapped up its negotiations with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, with the exception of the unit representing public nurses.

The HGEA contract gave its 35,000 members a 5 percent pay cut, but boosted their personal days by 6. They already have 21 sick days, 21 vacation days and 13 personal days, amounting to almost 3 months off if they use all of the days they are allocated.

What HGEA members might not realize is that Gov. Neil Abercrombie, when he came into office, almost immediately authorized $18 million to raise the state’s contribution to the public union members’ health care from a 50-50 split to a 60-40 split with the state paying the higher cost.

But with cutbacks statewide, that increase in the state’s share of the medical premium won’t last forever. In fact, the increase only runs from March to June 30.  Starting on July 1, with the new fiscal year, Abercrombie negotiated a 50-50 split on the medical for HGEA, so it will go back to the way it was just months ago.

The State offers eligible employees a choice of health insurance plans with full medical, drug, chiropractic, dental, and vision plans via the Hawai`i Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, press secretary to the governor, said “Governor Abercrombie was very clear that 60/40 was only through June 30.  For FY12 and 13, the Governor has asked all public unions to agree to a 50/50 split, with employees and the state sharing equally in the costs of premiums and the cost of any increases in premiums.  This is both fair and feasible.’

Hawaii Reapportionment Commission: Where’s Our Money?

Reapportionment commission members met this week to be briefed by commission staff on their task ahead. They must redraw the lines for Hawaii’s congressional, state house and senate senate districts this year, per the U.S. Constitutional requirement, to ensure the population is relatively evenly distributed. The process happens every 10 years.

But there is just one major problem: There is no fiscal allocation for the commission to purchase the software it needs to redraw the maps or pay the staff or run its operations.

There is a $600,000 emergency appropriation pending approval by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and commissioners want to know where the money is.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, the Press Secretary for the governor, told Hawaii Reporter that “It is still under review by various agencies, and the Governor.”

Commissioners say they are feeling crunched for time. The initial plan is supposed to be released on August 8. There is a 20 day review period after that for public comment. There are other deadlines to be met. Then plan has to be finalized 20 days before the next legislative session starting January 19, 2012, and handed over to lawmakers.

Anthony Takitani, a Democrat commission member from Maui, expressed concern that the commission is feeling rushed and yet still does not have the money to get to work. He called it embarrassing and said this commission should write up a list of recommendations for future commissions that includes a suggestion to start earlier and get the funding the year ahead.

Dylan Nonaka, a Republican commission member from Oahu, pushed for an official letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie expressing concern about the lack of funding, but the remaining commissioners seemed hesitant to take action.

The next meeting is set for June 9, 2011. Commissioners are hoping that the governor will not delay their funding until the next fiscal year starting July 1, 2011, because of budget shortfalls.

University of Hawaii Union Negotiations Complete, But University Faces Other Funding Challenges

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which is the union representing professors at the University of Hawaii, already completed its contract negotiations under former Gov. Linda Lingle. The six year contract does not expire until 2015.

But the university is facing other funding challenges. Especially with the legislature’s failure to fund $4 million for the medical school. The university administrators are concerned that may mean higher tuition for medical students. Students are already struggling to pay tuition and administrators don’t want them to leave Hawaii, fearing if they attend medical school elsewhere, they may not return to Hawaii to help fill the doctor shortage.

More on this story next week in Hawaii Reporter.

 

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