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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Lingle says no money for union raises

By Gordon Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

On the eve of a statutory impasse with all 13 public worker bargaining units, Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday announced that the state does not have the money for pay raises being proposed by the government employee unions.

"Although the state cannot offer wage increases at this time, we can assure (workers) that they will not lose any benefits," Lingle said in a statement last night.

Negotiations with the unions are ongoing, chief state negotiatTed Hong said, and an impasse simply triggers the process that could lead to a strike. However, police, firefighters, state nurses and corrections officers by law are barred from going on strike.

Hong said he is optimistic that new contracts can be negotiated before the existing ones expire on June 30.

Lingle had no choice but to announce that the state cannot afford to pay any raises, he said. "The unions are asking for substantial wage increases but, given the state's financial picture, we're not able to pay that kind of money," Hong said. He declined to give specifics of what the unions are seeking.

Three units have reached an impasse and are in arbitration — those representing police, firefighters and nurses.