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Teachers union says it will challenge forced contract

    HSTA President Wil Okabe holds a brief press conference on Dec. 16, 2009 to update neogtiations on Furlough Fridays.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association will challenge the state’s decision to unilaterally impose a “last, best and final” contract offer on teachers, the union president said today.

Wil Okabe, HSTA president, earlier today said the union would make some type of filing today with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board or state Circuit Court. However, the 4:30 p.m. deadlines passed today with no filing by the HSTA.

Earlier today, Okabe said HSTA attorneys are working to determine the best way to proceed.

The teachers’ two-year contract expired Thursday. The state said it would unilaterally implement new contract terms today without teacher approval.

“We will be challenging the superintendent’s order to implement the ‘last, best and final’ offer,” Okabe said.

He added that the union has waited to act because officials were hoping to return to the bargaining table.

“We wanted to respect the collective bargaining process,” Okabe said.

Okabe called the the state’s action unprecedented and said it “definitely has major implications for all public unions” in the state.

Five percent wage reductions and increased health insurance premiums for Hawaii’s 12,700 public school teachers were unilaterally implemented today.

The Department of Education announced last week its plan to put a “last, best and final” contract offer into effect, after declaring an impasse in negotiations with HSTA.

The “last, best” offer includes a 1.5 percent pay cut and 7 furlough days for 10-month teachers or nine furlough days for 12-month teachers. Teachers will also have to pay 50 percent of their health insurance premiums, up from 40 percent.

For 12-month teachers the wage reduction will start showing up in paychecks July 20. For 10-month employees it will be reflected starting Aug. 20.

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