Wednesday, February 7, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, February 7, 2001

UPW chief gives Legislature ultimatum

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

United Public Workers leader Gary Rodrigues said yesterday he would have no choice but to call for a strike vote if lawmakers fail to appropriate money for the pay raises state negotiators agreed to give his union’s members.

In December, state officials announced the agreement reached with UPW’s 8,700 Unit I members — who collect trash, run county sewer and water systems and clean and maintain government restrooms, buildings and parks.

"Our only alternative will be to issue a strike notice," Rodrigues said. "Because since we have an agreement with the employer that the Legislature doesn’t want to fund, there’s no negotiations to do anymore."

Rodrigues said it would be a unique situation. "Instead of we having a disagreement with the employers, we would have a disagreement with the Legislature, who will be responsible for the strike, should a strike occur," he said.

The two-year agreement calls for an 11 percent pay increase in exchange for reductions in vacation and sick leave for new hires.

Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (Wahiawa, Waialua, Sunset Beach), said lawmakers aren’t planning to go home at the end of the session without underwriting the raises: "We have not looked at the option of deferral as of yet."

Three public employee unions representing 38,000 people remain without contracts: the Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents most white-collar employees; the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, representing the faculty; and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, representing 12,000 public school teachers.

Bunda said he is interested in looking at potential costs of all the public employee raises, "and then we’ll probably make a decision.""

Advertiser capitol bureau chief Kevin Dayton contributed to this report.

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