By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Despite outstanding issues such as pay raises, outside employment, tenure and promotions at the University of Hawaii, faculty union and state negotiators have not spoken since November, raising the specter of a possible strike.
"There has been absolutely no talks, no negotiations," said J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. "It is highly unlikely that there will be any talks."
Faculty members have discussed strike dates, and the union plans to unleash TV and radio ads this spring to drum up public support for the cause. A demonstration likely to be the first of many is planned from 2:30 to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Honolulu Community College.
"The faculty are angry," said Alex Malahoff, president of the UHPA executive committee. "They havent had a raise. The pocketbook is starting to get thinner. That demoralizes the faculty."
The faculty union has been without a contract since June 1999.
UH President Kenneth Mortimer told elected officials all last week that the universitys top priority for the 2001 legislative session is improving faculty salaries.
"Over the decade of the 90s, our faculty salaries have fallen from the 60th to 80th percentile to the 40th," he said Friday before a group of House and Senate members. "We need to have the 80th percentile as a goal. We were there at the beginning of the decade."
The lower salaries make it difficult or impossible for the university to recruit faculty members or persuade others to stay at UH, he said.
UH faculty members earn from $30,000 to $147,000, Musto said. According to papers filed by the union during the fact-finding period, more than one-third of the faculty members earn less than Honolulu bus drivers.
Union wants 14.9%, state offers 9%
The faculty union is seeking a 14.9 percent increase over four years, which would allow for some across-the-board raises and the establishment of special funds for merit raises, retention and boosting the salaries of some of the lowest-paid faculty.
The state has offered a 9 percent raise over four years.
Davis Yogi, Gov. Ben Cayetanos chief negotiator, said he hasnt called the faculty union, but intends to do so soon. "We will resume our negotiations with the faculty," Yogi said. "Were cooling off. Now is a good time to get back to the table."
Yogi said the state has limited money to allocate and that the faculty will have to compete against other interests for a share of the money during the legislative session. The union representing Hawaiis public school teachers also is edging closer to a strike that could possibly come in April.
Thomas Ramsey, UH-Manoa math professor and member of the UHPA executive committee, said a strike is likely in the second half of the semester if the state and union cannot come to an agreement.
"My guess is a strike is very possible this semester," Ramsey said. "The executive committee has definitely discussed specific days."
Still, the union is giving the state time to come to the bargaining table, Ramsey said.
In October, the labor board declared an impasse in the talks and appointed a mediator, followed by the naming of a fact-finding panel. No strike can occur until after Jan. 29, following a 10-day notice of intent to strike, according to the labor board.
Malahoff said a strike is a last resort, but is the one of the only options faculty members have left.
"We want to see a diplomatic and quick solution to this problem," Malahoff said. "For us, if a strike comes, it is a state disaster. It would affect the students. It would affect the universitys national standing. I am counting on common sense to prevail."
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