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VOLCANIC ASH


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Teachers union should settle contract mess outside of court

By David Shapiro

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:18 a.m. HST, Jul 06, 2011



The Hawaii State Teachers Association accuses the Abercrombie administration of skirting the collective bargaining process by imposing its “last, best and final” contract terms, but that’s exactly what the union would be doing by filing a legal challenge.

If the teachers don’t like the state’s final offer, they have a remedy under the collective bargaining process: go on strike.

By asking the courts or the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to bar the state from using a bargaining tactic allowed under federal labor law, HSTA would be trying to gain the fruits of a strike without the risks.

If the state is left with no legal way of forcing negotiations to a conclusion — as the union can do by striking — HSTA could stall indefinitely to avoid the 5 percent pay cut that Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Legislature deemed necessary to balance the budget in a time of $1 billion deficits.

The state would lose control of its payroll — an untenable situation for any employer.

The largest public worker union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, agreed to a 5 percent pay cut to share in the sacrifices most Hawaii residents have had to make in the extended economic downturn.

Abercrombie can’t give the teachers or other unions a better deal, or it will trigger a matching clause for HGEA that busts the budget.

Accusations that the governor has declared war on unions after enjoying their support for most of his career ring false.

The 5 percent cut he asks, which was criticized as too little by many legislators, is a fair deal for workers considering that the budget shortfall was closer to 10 percent. His cut actually restores half the pay most state employees lost from Furlough Fridays.

HSTA can’t seem to settle a contract without drama.

In the Cayetano years it was an extended disagreement after the deal was signed over what had been agreed to.

With the Lingle administration, teachers agreed to drug testing to gain an 11 percent pay raise but refused drug tests after the raise was pocketed.

Then came Furlough Fridays, when HSTA displayed its pique and created a crisis in the schools by insisting that every single furlough day be on an instructional day.

In the current case, the state thought it had a handshake agreement with HSTA negotiators who called the state’s offer a “B-minus” — a good outcome in this economy — but the union’s board turned it down and refused to put it to the teachers for a vote.

Now the courts and labor board should stay out of it and let the HSTA untangle its own mess by accepting the state’s offer, making a counteroffer the state can accept or calling a strike vote.

David Shapiro can be reached at volcanicash@gmail.com or blog.volcanicash.net.






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