By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawaii faculty members can legally strike as of today the end of a 60-day cooling-off period between the faculty union and the state.
Although the union has not set a date, members are preparing for a statewide faculty strike this semester, and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly this morning will announce its plans for addressing the impasse with the state.
"I think theres some kind of degree of resignation," said James Heasley, an astronomy professor at UH-Manoa and a member of the faculty unions bargaining team. "It gets very demoralizing."
Union members say this is part of an effort to drum up public support for their cause. Dozens of professors, some of them wearing caps and gowns and flashing the shaka to passing cars, showed up at a faculty picket line earlier this month at Honolulu Community College. Another demonstration is planned at Leeward Community College this week.
Faculty members have been without a contract since 1999, and communication between the union and the states negotiator has been nonexistent since November, when an impasse was declared.
The union and the state have not resolved issues such as pay raises, outside employment, tenure and promotions.
Today the union is also expected to lay out its complaints against the state and university administration. The union has complained that some deans at Manoa are telling faculty members to figure out how to receive merit pay even though that hasnt been approved; Kapiolani Community College is reorganizing in a way that impacts working conditions, although it hasnt been approved by the Board of Regents or the union; and that Kapiolani Community College is classifying some lecturers in "variable positions" that do not exist under the union contract.
While talk so far has centered on having a strike during the second half of the semester, many faculty members are urging action sooner.
"Were hearing from people who say we should speed up the timetable," said Thomas Ramsey, a UH-Manoa math professor and member of the UHPA executive committee. "They realize the governor will not take us seriously until we do strike."
The faculty must file an intent-to-strike notice with the state 10 days before doing so.
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.
UH faculty members earn between $30,000 and $147,000 a year.
Davis Yogi, Gov. Ben Cayetanos chief negotiator, said the state is willing to give faculty 4 percent in 2001 and 2002 for merit raises, but does not support an across-the-board wage increase.
"We think its time we catch up with the new millennium and have some merit pay," Yogi said. "I dont know what the big deal is. I think its time to hold people to what we teach: Performance is an expectation."
Yogi said he has been talking with UH administrators, but has not scheduled any meetings with UHPA.
Heasley said faculty members are distressed that the state has talked with other unions in recent weeks, but not theirs. "Faculty do not like the idea of striking," Heasley said. "Were willing to talk, but no one wants to sit down across the table."
Alex Malahoff, president of the UHPA executive committee, said he expects his colleagues to be stoic and strategic if a strike is necessary. "In this state theres never been a settlement without a crisis," he said. "Its part of the culture. Were in dire straits. Were starting to lose faculty. Were having trouble recruiting faculty. Theres anxiety here. You cant work without a contract."
[back to top]