The Hawaii State Teachers Association is challenging the governor’s plan to furlough teachers and other school employees by turning to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
The union filed a prohibited practice complaint Friday that argues the state has no authority to unilaterally impose furloughs under the union’s contract, which runs until June 30.
“Collective bargaining is enshrined in Hawaii’s constitution, and contracts cannot be dismissed when the governor considers them inconvenient,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said in a statement. “Otherwise, why have a contract? If these illegal furloughs are implemented, Gov. (David) Ige would be the third governor in a row to cut teacher pay.”
Ige has called for furloughing state workers two days a month starting in January. The Department of Education plans to furlough 10-month employees — including teachers, counselors, school librarians and registrars — a total of six days for the first six months of the year.
In a memo to public school employees on Monday announcing the plan, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the governor has the authority to impose furloughs based on his emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as his rights as a public employer.
Only the first two furlough dates, Jan. 4 and Feb. 12, were firm in her memo, with the remainder subject to the governor extending his emergency order and requiring them.
“The unprecedented COVID-19 emergency response encompasses the economic and fiscal aspects of the pandemic, as well as the direct public-health aspects of the emergency,” she wrote in her memo.
The next step is for the Labor Board to schedule a hearing on the case.