Friday, November 27, 2015         

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HSTA injunction targets pay cuts, health care costs

The union wants to restore provisions of its expired pact

By Mary Vorsino


The teachers union has filed a motion seeking relief from the pay cuts, furloughs and higher health insurance premiums unilaterally imposed by the state July 1.

The motion, filed Monday, asks the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to restore the conditions of a contract that expired June 30 and to compel the state to return to the bargaining table.

"It's an injunction to stop the pay deductions, stop the medical deductions, stop the implementation of the furlough days," said Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The motion comes more than a week after HSTA filed a "prohibited practice" complaint with HLRB, arguing that the state failed to bargain in good faith and violated members' rights and the state Constitution when it unilaterally implemented its "last, best and final" contract offer.

The state is slated to file a response to the complaint this week.

THE GOVERNOR and schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi have said the "last, best" offer needed to be implemented to avoid layoffs or cuts to instructional time.

The Governor's Office declined comment on the motion filed Monday.

To receive relief, the union must show the likelihood of its complaint prevailing on the merits, irreparable harm of the state's action and that providing relief is in the public interest.

Ryan Sanada, Hawaii labor and employment attorney, said to prove irreparable harm, the union must illustrate that the changes the state implemented "cannot be undone if the status quo is not maintained."

He said to consider irreparable harm, the HLRB will likely look at the entire contract offer and its unilateral implementation, rather than the individual elements in question, including pay cuts and furloughs.

Filed with the motion Monday were 71 exhibits, including several letters sent between the DOE and HSTA during months of tense negotiations.

IN A LETTER on June 23 to Okabe, Matayoshi and Board of Education Chairman Don Horner notified the union of their intentions to unilaterally impose the "last, best" offer.

"As you know, after many, many months of negotiations, we have been unable to reach a settlement with the HSTA," the letter said. "It is imperative that the department move forward now in order to accomplish the budget reductions and operational changes that will result in the new school year."

The Department of Education unilaterally implemented a 1.5 percent pay cut, furloughs on noninstructional days and increased health insurance premiums for Hawaii's 12,500 public school teachers July 1.

The union's exhibits filed Monday offered glimpses into the negotiations between the HSTA and DOE.

The "last, best" offer, for example, includes five more minutes of prep time for teachers per day. According to exhibits, the union originally asked for 20 minutes more per day. The state wanted four more minutes.

Also, the state was pushing to eliminate a teacher pay differential of $3,000 for hard-to-fill areas. The "last, best" offer slashed the differential in half instead.

About 1,100 teachers received the differential in the 2009-10 school year.

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