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Professors to vote on ‘final offer’ from UH

September 18, 2009
By HERBERT A. SAMPLE, The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Nearly 3,000 University of Hawaii system professors will vote on a ''last, best, final offer'' from their administrators early next month, but the proposal faces opposition from faculty union leaders.

Top officials of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly announced Thursday that the university's two-year contract proposal would be put to an online authorization vote of the union's 3,000 members Oct. 5-7. Results should be known by Oct. 8.

If approved, a ratification vote among all 4,000 workers covered by the proposal, including nonunion employees, would be held soon after.

Union leaders said they oppose it, adding that university negotiators were unwilling to make further compromises.

''We have a responsibility to allow our membership the opportunity to express their collective opinion,'' Executive Director J.N. Musto said in a statement. ''Unfortunately, the employer has issued the offer with an ultimatum: Accept the offer or it will be unilaterally imposed.''

Union officials said lawsuits and a strike could result from such action.

John Morton, university vice president for community colleges, called the administration offer ''reasonable.''

''We are experiencing a record increase in enrollment,'' he said in a statement. ''At the same time, we face at least a $154 million shortfall in our budgets over the next two years.''

According to the union, the proposed contract contains a 5 percent salary cut for employees who are paid with funds allocated to the university from the state. The reduction would be prorated for workers whose salaries are partially state-financed.

The administration offer also would implement a ''payroll lag'' in mid-2010 that would briefly delay salary checks, resulting in one less payday during the fiscal year that begins July 1. It also would hike the employee contribution toward health insurance premiums from 40 percent in the current contract to more than 50 percent, union officials said.

That would cost members an additional $2,400 a year, the union estimated.

The contract does not eliminate the possibility of program reductions or layoffs, UHPA President Duane Stevens said in the statement.

''The quality of Hawaii higher education will decline due to overcrowded classrooms, insufficient course offerings, increased teaching demands and reduced support for research,'' Stevens added.

A day earlier, two other unions representing state workers challenged decisions by Gov. Linda Lingle.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association asked the state Labor Relations Board to stop Lingle from laying off as many as 1,200 employees who work under her direct control.

Union attorney Peter Trask told the board Wednesday that the layoffs should be halted until the state properly consults on layoff procedures, according to The Honolulu Advertiser.

Layoff plans have been ''dysfunctional'' and ''disorganized,'' preventing the union from providing information to its members, Trask added.

Deputy Attorney General Richard Thomason argued that Lingle administration officials have responded to union questions about layoff procedures. Possible mistakes by or disagreements between the state and the union are part of the consultation process, he said.

A third state employee union, United Public Workers, on Wednesday sued Lingle over her decision to close Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island.

The United Public Workers union asserts that the action is unconstitutional and discriminatory, the Advertiser reported.

HGEA and UPW are involved in separate binding arbitration hearings with the state over a new contract.



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