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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 26, 2010

HSTA: Hawaii teachers can't legally work the 3 furlough days for free

Advertiser Staff

Teachers could not legally return to work voluntarily for the next three furlough Fridays because that goes against a contractually binding supplemental agreement reached between the union at the state Board of Education, said Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday asked all public school teachers and principals to volunteer to return to the classrooms without pay for the remaining three furlough days of the school year as a "gesture to heal our community."

With lawmakers poised to approve $67 million tomorrow to end furloughs for next year, Lingle said she will release only up to $57.2 million from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund. She estimated that money would restore 11 teacher furlough days next year.

Okabe said even if teachers could return with no pay on the next three scheduled furlough days, the situation would get complicated by the various other school employees who would have to volunteer to work. According to federal wage and hour laws, employees cannot work for free and must be paid if they show up for work.

Okabe said the governor's statement has created confusion and false hope that the furlough situation has been resolved.

"Furlough days scheduled for this year will continue. The Legislature sent that message when they approved money that only looked at next year," he said.