Teachers dust off picketline T-shirts
By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer
Public school teachers who return to school next week likely will be wearing strike T-shirts. The Hawai'i State Teachers Association is encouraging teachers to pull their T-shirts out of the closet to protest the ongoing deadlock with the state over the cost of a professional bonus and the resulting delay in implementing their new contract.
The two sides cannot agree whether a bonus for teachers with advanced degrees was intended to cover one year or two. While the contract remains unresolved and unsigned, teachers will not receive any pay raises.
Union officials have said they want to avoid a dispute over the matter but are considering legal action or another strike.
And the issue is heating up with teachers returning to work at more than 40 schools next week.
The governor this week rejected a union proposal to implement the bulk of the contract while they work out their differences on the bonus, according to HSTA spokeswoman Danielle Lum.
Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday reiterated that there will be no teacher contract until the union agrees to a one-time payment of the bonus.
"We meant one year and there can be no agreement until we reach that understanding," he said.
His spokeswoman, Kim Murakawa, said legal counsel has advised that there be no contract without a resolution of the bonus issue, which the union itself called a "significant component" of the contract.
The HSTA continues to insist the agreement was for two years. Lum points to the last two words of the clause to make her point.
The clause reads: "Teachers who hold professional certificates based on a Masters degree or a Professional Diploma shall receive a 3% differential calculated on their current salary each year."
Meanwhile, the cost of the bonus is uncertain as the Department of Education continues to count which teachers are eligible.
The state's chief negotiator Davis Yogi said the last estimate he heard was about $9 million for one year. HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted said the last figure she was given was $13.4 million for two years.
Staff writer Glenn Scott contributed to this story.