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Abercrombie signs two-year labor contract for UH faculty

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An emotional Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed off on a new two-year labor contract for the University of Hawaii’s more than 4,000 faculty on Monday, a day before Hawaii voters elect a new governor.

Abercrombie, who came to Hawaii in 1959 to be a teaching assistant at UH-Manoa, where he earned a master’s in sociology and doctorate in American studies, clutched his faded membership card to the union predecessor of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. 

“The University of Hawaii has been my life for 55 years,” a misty-eyed Abercrombie said at a signing ceremony. “This signature is an extension of my past commitment, my present commitment and my future commitment to the university and all it means to Hawaii and its future.” 

University and union officials called the contract, which takes effect July 1, unprecedented in that an agreement was reached a year before the current pact expires. A tentative deal was announced over the summer, and UHPA members overwhelmingly approved the agreement in August, with 99.1 percent of faculty voting in favor.

“This is historic because I think this agreement achieves — after 40 years — the goal that we wanted, which was that the union has become a cooperative partner with the university administration and the university community in general,” said UHPA’s longtime executive director, JN Musto, who is retiring next year.

The $32 million contract includes 4 percent across-the-board raises in each of the next two years as well as increases to the minimum salaries members are paid by rank.

A full professor at the flagship Manoa campus currently earns $131,761 a year, on average, according to UHPA salary data. At the seven community college campuses, professors earn just under $89,000, on average.

The contract still requires funding from the Legislature.

UH President David Lassner has said student tuition will not be used to cover the cost of the salary increases. If lawmakers do not approve general funds — tax revenue from the state’s general fund — for the agreement, the contract will not take effect.

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