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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Staff Writers

Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

UPW files complaint with labor board against governor, mayor

 • BOE cancels meeting on $270M budget cut

The United Public Workers yesterday filed a complaint against Gov. Linda Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann with the Hawai'i Labor Relations Board, seeking to prevent them from talking publicly about potential layoffs and contract negotiations.

Lingle has warned that if her furlough plans are blocked by union legal challenges, she would resort to layoffs of 2,500 state workers under her control. Hannemann and other county mayors issued a statement last week saying that they would make a contract offer to county workers separate from the governor's offer to state workers the first time mayors would submit separate packages from the state.

The UPW's complaint also names Marie Laderta, the director of the state Department of Human Resources Development.

The UPW, which represents blue-collar government workers, argues in its complaint that the obligation to bargain in good faith requires that the parties not negotiate in public. The union said it believes the governor, the state labor negotiator and the mayor should not make public statements about contract talks or issue news media releases on the content of negotiations without mutual consent. The union also argues that the state or county should not threaten layoffs.

The Hawai'i Labor Relations Board typically holds a pre-hearing settlement conference and a hearing before issuing a decision.

Laderta said she had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment. The mayor's office also did not immediately comment.

Lingle yesterday signed an executive order imposing furloughs on state workers of three days a month for two years, starting in July. The governor said she hopes to save $688 million through furloughs and equivalent spending cuts to help close a $730 million budget deficit through June 2011.

"This is not something we want to do, but something we have to do to balance the state budget and address the unprecedented fiscal emergency we are in due to the projected $2.7 billion revenue shortfall," Lingle said in a statement.

"I appreciate the understanding of the state employees who will be affected by the furlough and admire the cooperation they have demonstrated in helping to ensure that state services will continue to be provided when the furlough plan begins on July 1."

The Hawai'i Government Employees Association, meanwhile, has joined the UPW and the Hawai'i State Teachers Association in seeking a court injunction against Lingle's furlough plans.

Legal motions filed by the HGEA also seek a court ruling that Lingle's backup plan of laying off thousands of state workers would violate state law and collective bargaining agreements.

The HGEA motions will be argued in a Thursday hearing before Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto. The hearing will also address temporary restraining order motions filed earlier by the UPW and the HSTA against the furlough plans.

The HGEA motions assert that Lingle does not have the legal authority to unilaterally order furloughs and, even if she did, procedures for implementing the furloughs are subject to negotiation with the union.

Furlough-related questions subject to negotiation, the union said, should include:

  • Which employees may be furloughed;

  • Necessary advance notice of furloughs;

  • Re-calculation of benefits, including vacation and sick leave, because of furloughs;

  • Use of earned vacation to obtain compensation on furlough days;

  • Whether work units furlough everyone on the same day or spread them out;

  • Which work days would be scheduled for furloughs.

    Similarly, HGEA attorney James E.T. Koshiba argued, if the governor resorts to mass layoffs instead of furloughs, she still must follow established procedures including a "requirement that the employer provide 90 days advance notice of any layoffs."