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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hawaii will cut pay or furlough hospital, EMS, prison staffers

Advertiser Staff

About 3,000 public safety workers covered by the United Public Workers union learned yesterday that they will receive either pay cuts of up to 5.45 percent or furloughs of up to 24 days, under an arbitration panel ruling.

Gov. Linda Lingle's office made the announcement last night.

The arbitration panel ruled that state prison guards' pay will be cut 5.45 percent, because furloughs could cause staffing shortfalls in the around-the-clock jobs.

Workers with Hawai'i Health Systems Corp., which operates 14 state medical facilities, will be subject to up to 14 furlough days through June, and up to 24 furlough days in the following fiscal year.

City Emergency Medical Services will have no furloughs this fiscal year, but up to 21 furlough days from July 1 through June 2011.

The ruling does not cover UPW's blue-collar unit, which does not have the right to arbitration.

"This is a split decision as far as I'm concerned," Lingle said in a news release. "The arbitration panel went along with our request for pay cuts for employees of some of the most important 24/7 operations at the State Hospital, the prisons and the youth correctional facility, but ignored the same request for others.

"We are very disappointed that the panel chose to implement furloughs for employees of the Hawai'i Health Systems Corporation. A straight pay cut for these employees would be better than furloughs because the nature of the work and the people they serve requires 24/7 attention."

A recording at the United Public Workers' office last night said the office would be closed through Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and would reopen Tuesday.

The arbitration panel's ruling includes:

• Hawai'i State Hospital, prison and Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility guards: Up to a 5.45 percent pay cut, effective Jan. 1 through June 30, 2011.

• Hawai'i Health Systems Corp.: Up to 14 furlough days, effective Jan. 1 through June 30. Up to 24 furlough days, effective July 1 through June 30, 2011.

• City Emergency Medical Services: No furloughs in fiscal year 2010. Up to 21 furlough days from July 1 through June 30, 2011.

Lingle and county mayors have to agree on a formal contract proposal for UPW's separate blue-collar unit.

The blue-collar unit, which does not have the right to binding arbitration, represents about 8,800 state and county workers.

Another 1,985 employees at the Hawai'i Health Systems Corp. represented by the Hawai'i Government Employees Association previously agreed to 5 percent pay cuts instead of furloughs.

The University of Hawai'i and its 3,500-member faculty union last week agreed to resume negotiations over salary cuts that were imposed by the university.

The University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly said it wants to return to the bargaining table and also asked that the negotiations be monitored by a federal mediator.

The university imposed a 6.7 percent pay cut over 18 months to alleviate a $154 million reduction in its operational budget.