Testimony heard on collective bargaining
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
Two bills introduced by Gov. Linda Lingle designed to blunt some of the impact of binding arbitration with the Hawai'i Government Employees Association likely won't make it out of committee, at least not in their present form, judging by the comments of House Labor Committee Chairman Marcus Oshiro.
Oshiro's committee heard lively testimony from management and union officials on House Bill 2326, which would cap raises for HGEA members through binding arbitration at no more than 1.5 percent a year, and House Bill 2328, which requires arbitrators of binding arbitration cases to consider additional factors such as an employer's ability to pay.
"Interesting proposal, but it may not be appropriate for collective bargaining given the system we have set up," Oshiro said of the idea of a cap. He said it may diminish other factors that arbitrators are required to consider when determining how much of an increase, if any, employees should receive.
"To me, it's like putting collective bargaining on auto-pilot without any rhyme or reason, or consideration of the realities of the work force and the economy," he said.
Oshiro said he will talk to other committee members about what action to take, including the possibility of raising the percentage on the cap.
House Bill 2328 states that arbitration panels must consider the impact of increases if applied to all bargaining units, the government's ability to pay, and a comparison with the pay of private-sector employees in similar positions.
Oshiro said it appears that such factors already are weighed.
Ted Hong, the chief negotiator for the state, testified in support of both bills while Randy Perreira, HGEA deputy executive director, argued strongly against them.
"This bill provides absolutely no incentive for the employers to negotiate," Perreira said. "They can sit through the entire process and wait for arbitration and limit their damage to 1.5 percent."
Hong said that under the lingering shadow of binding arbitration, "there really is no incentive to keep anybody at the table."
Hong said that the administration's proposal of the cap should not come as a surprise given its strong objection to the Legislature's decision last year to restore binding arbitration for HGEA. A veto by Lingle of that legislation was defeated in an override vote.
Perreira said that House Bill 2328 includes language that prevents employees from raising comparisons with counterparts on the Mainland. Hong said that stronger language is necessary because arbitrators have considered some factors in determining what to pay while ignoring others, often to the advantage of the unions.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com or at 525-8070.