Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Furlough end comes too late to tell workers

A deal to extend a UPW pact does not leave enough time to notify city employees

By Gregg K. Kakesako


The city's six refuse convenience centers were closed Friday because workers thought they were supposed to be on furlough, a city spokeswoman said.

Negotiators for the city and the United Public Workers agreed Thursday night to extend existing wages and benefits but to end two years of Furlough Fridays while negotiations for a new contract continue.

However, the agreement came too late to notify some members of UPW's Unit 1 who work for the city and were already scheduled to be on furlough.

At least one UPW sewer employee at the city Department of Environmental Services said he was told by his supervisor Thursday afternoon that he was not to work on Friday.

Louise Kim McCoy, city spokeswoman, said the only city operations that were affected were the six refuse convenience centers at Ewa, Laie, Wahiawa, Waianae, Waimanalo and Waipahu. They were closed for bulky trash drop-offs but will be reopened today. No other city operations were affected.

McCoy said there may have been other city employees who did not show up for work, but did not have a count.

About 1,780 Unit 1 workers are assigned to four city agencies — Environmental Services, Parks and Recreation, Facility Management and the Board of Water Supply — but they were on a staggered furlough schedule and not all of them were supposed to be off duty at the same time, McCoy said.

Workers who did not report to work will be given administrative leave with pay, she said.

"It didn't seem fair to have them come unless we were sure that the furlough was going to end," McCoy said.

City UPW employees will continue to work under the wages and benefits of a contract settled in June 2009 while negotiators work on a new pact.

McCoy said furloughs for all city workers, including UPW members, ended Thursday.

State and county government workers have returned to a regular five-day workweek after two years of furloughs. Government offices, schools and other public facilities were closed at least twice a month. The furloughs were instituted as a way to deal with budget deficits.

The last official Furlough Friday for state employees was June 24.

Furloughs for county workers on Kauai ended in January and April for those on Maui. Furloughs ended last month for Hawaii County employees.

In April the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state's largest public-sector labor union with 28,124 members, announced a tentative two-year contract agreement that includes a 5 percent pay cut, an increase in health care premium payments and an increase in time off. However, HGEA's 1,561-member Unit 9 of registered professional nurses rejected the proposed contract.

Besides the UPW, labor negotiations still continue with the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

Dayton Nakanelua, UPW state director, did not respond to inquiries about the furlough mix-up.

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