HONOLULU (AP) - University of Hawaii professors have overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from university administrators, pushing negotiations back to the bargaining table.
Three thousand members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly voted 86 percent against the proposal and almost 14 percent for, the union announced Thursday. The vote was taken electronically on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Union Executive Director J.N. Musto said in a statement Thursday that all parties, including the federal mediator, should head back to the bargaining table ''so that UHPA can present a proposal with alternative solutions.''
A union spokesman said mediator Carol Catanzariti has scheduled new talks beginning Wednesday.
University President M.R.C. Greenwood expressed disappointment with the vote, saying the offer was ''fair and reasonable.''
The administration's 5 percent pay-cut proposal would have been less than what other state employees are facing, she contended, noting that administrators' pay has been cut between 6 and 10 percent.
''The university is now considering its options for resolving this dispute,'' Greenwood said. ''Budget reductions of $76 million have already been imposed on the university, and the UHPA vote does not change that fact.''
Gov. Linda Lingle suggested the university may opt to impose its contract offer.
''The professors would have the right to strike at that point,'' she told reporters Thursday. ''Or, the university could make further cuts to classes or other programs. We simply don't have the money that we had projected we were going to have for the next two years.''
Union officials had said the administration offer also would have implemented a ''payroll lag'' starting in July that would have briefly delayed salary checks over the succeeding 12 months.
And it would have hiked the employee contribution toward health insurance premiums from 40 percent in the current contract to more than 50 percent. That would have cost members an additional $2,400 a year, the union estimated.
The offer would not have eliminated the possibility of program reductions or layoffs, union officials added.
Some union proposals were rejected, including a pay cut that would have to be repaid in the future and a freeze on administrative hiring, officials said.
The professors union is unique among four state employee unions in that its contract remains in effect after its expiration until a new contract is approved.