Frustration builds as teacher talks recess until tomorrow
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By Ronna Bolante and Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writers
Talks between the state and the teachers union ended last night with no progress and the two sides don't plan to meet again until tomorrow, the two-week point of the strike.
State chief negotiator Davis Yogi did not comment after the night session ended, but Hawai'i State Teachers Association executive director Joan Husted described the talks as unproductive.
It wasnt as productive as we would have liked it to have been. Were concerned, Husted said.
She said the two sides wont meet again until 1 p.m. tomorrow and she called for Gov. Ben Cayetano to bring in another negotiator.
Husted also said it's time for the state to name a second negotiator because Yogi has to split his time with the HSTA, Hawai'i Government Employees Association and the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly. UHPA represents about 3,100 university professors who began their walkout on the same day as the public school teachers.
Were concerned about the delay in getting back to bargaining because Davis (Yogi) is tied up with UHPA and HGEA so were kind of third in line. So it means it will be at least two more days that kids wont be getting to school and that is really troubling for us, Husted said. We cant keep schools closed while we wait for the states negotiator to come back to the bargaining table.
Husted also said she didnt think the two sides could reach a settlement by the end of the week.
At this rate I dont see how, she said. If were only going to bargain every other day, I dont see how were going to get done by the end of the week.
Yesterday's talks began at about 4:30 p.m. and wound up at about 11 last night.
While no settlement emerged, the state agreed earlier yesterday to maintain health benefits for the striking teachers until a contract deal is reached. The action delays a court battle over the health benefits.
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
Hawai'i public schoolteachers showed support for one another during a rally yesterday at the Kapi'olani Park bandstand.
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
"This issue has been somewhat troublesome to us, and that's why we have moved to set it aside," Cayetano said. "It's getting in the way of negotiations as a whole."
Cayetano said once an agreement is reached, the two sides will be able to contest or litigate the issue.
He has said Hawai'i's 12,000 striking teachers are on "unauthorized leave of absence" and therefore are not eligible for health benefits. HSTA president Karen Ginoza said yesterday's deal was an important step toward ending the strike.
"This removes a major barrier to trying to reach settlement on our contract," she said. "This way, our whole focus can be on reaching settlement."
The union has demanded a wage hike package worth about $200 million. Cayetano has offered between 12 percent and 14 percent, at a cost of $93 million, and has also insisted that any pay raise be tied to improved school performance.
The head of a nationwide group of educators and teachers unions said the future of the state's public education system is being further damaged each day the strike continues.
"The longer it goes on, the more and more people are hearing about it, and that doesn't attract people from the Mainland to come here and teach," said Bob Chase, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Education Association.
The 2.5 million-member NEA is providing money to the HSTA and to the union that represents striking University of Hawai'i faculty members, Chase said yesterday after a huge and festive strike rally in Kapi'olani Park. He wouldn't say how much money is being provided.
Cayetano's press secretary did not return calls regarding Chase's comments. Cayetano will participate in a live Internet discussion on strike-related issues today between 7 and 8 p.m. at strike.hawaii.gov.
Politics intruded on the gathering in Kapi'olani Park as Mayor Jeremy Harris addressed the teachers, while Republican Linda Lingle was not allowed to speak to the crowd.
When union leaders were asked why Harris, a Democrat, was allowed to speak but Lingle was not, Lingle said they explained that Harris allowed the teachers union to have access to the park, which is a city facility.
"It's that kind of blind allegiance to a political party that has allowed them to take advantage of the teachers for such a long time, as I feel they're doing right now," Lingle said.
Harris and Lingle are both planning to run for governor in 2002.
Advertiser staff writers Kevin Dayton and Curtis Lum contributed to this report.