BY RHONDA GLASS – I am one of those people who thinks it is important to shed a little sunshine whenever the opportunity arises. Such an opportunity has presented itself, and I feel it is my obligation to help inform the general public about what is really happening with the public unions in this state – especially the Hawaii Government Employees Association, of which I am a member.
Contract negotiations have reached a point of temporary settlement. The new contracts are now in the process of ratification by union members across Hawaii. But there are a couple of problems with that process and you need to know about it.
First of all, the HGEA members were never told who the so-called negotiators were until after the negotiations were completed. There was no attempt by these negotiators to get suggestions or input from the members they are supposedly representing. No surveys were sent out. No polls were taken.
Soon after, we received propaganda letter from the HGEA explaining what the negotiators managed to “win” for us. All of their names – minus any contact information – are printed on the back of the letter. In short, what they negotiated for me and my co-workers is a farce.
Furloughs will stop, and our salaries will be “reset” to whatever we were making as of June 30, 2009. From that, we will all get a 5% pay cut, and there will continue to be no “step increases” for at least another two years. Individual merit raises are out of the question, of course. So that’s the equivalent of 5 pay cuts, through fiscal year 2013. In addition, we have been “rewarded” with a 10% increase in our health care premiums.
Instead of a furlough day (8 hours), which Gov. Neil Abercrombie swore he was going to do away with, we will all get to take 6 hours of “supplemental” time off each month. Here’s the kicker: It’s paid time off. That is equal to nine additional days off – with pay – each year. Are you thoroughly confused yet? The better question would be, are you enraged about how your tax dollars are being spent? If not, then why not?
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of public sector employees want to work, and they want to do a good job at whatever it is they do. Personally, I do not want or need even more paid time off than I already have. I think we have too much as it is. Some of that could be eliminated, if the powers-that-be truly wanted to save some money. But many hard-core union members claim that such actions would be “take-aways” and they won’t go for that. Better to “take away” a few paid holidays and vacation days than to start taking away jobs altogether – because that will be the next step if they don’t get things under control.
Our best hope is that these new union contracts won’t be ratified and instead will go into mediation. I’m not holding my breath, though. Too many of my fellow government employees don’t understand that this is all about politics and power, and that neither their future livelihood, or the health of our state, are not the primary concerns of these union leaders.