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Lingle: State can’t afford UH professor raises

She says university would need to raise money it requires

January 20, 2010
By LOREN MORENO, The Honolulu Advertiser

The University of Hawaii can pay for a new contract with the professors union, which includes pay raises in 2013 and 2014, without additional state money.

That was the message from Gov. Linda Lingle on Monday, who said she agreed to the offer before it went to the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly last week. Union members must still ratify the agreement, and a five-day electronic voting period will begin Thursday.

The governor said the state will not commit additional money to UH to cover pay increases in the agreement.

"Let's look at UHPA as different from all other contracts because the University of Hawaii has the ability to raise revenue in other ways, specifically through tuition," Lingle said. "There has been no commitment on the part of the state for any additional funding in future years, although I did tell President (M.R.C.) Greenwood that I certainly hope we are in a position to help the university more in the years ahead."

Four months ago, the university professors voted overwhelmingly to reject a contract that included a 5 percent pay cut. But, over the weekend, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly presented its 3,500 members with a new contract offer that includes a temporary 6.7 percent pay reduction, until July 2011.

Unlike the state's agreement with the public school teachers union, the UHPA agreement includes a 3 percent pay raise in 2013 and 2014, and three lump-sum payments to reimburse professors for the money lost to the 6.7 percent pay cut.

The pay cut is for 18 months, starting this month. The money will be restored starting August 2012.

University officials have remained silent about the details of the agreement since it was announced on Saturday. Requests for comment from Greenwood were not granted.

It remains unclear how the university plans to pay for the latter portion of the UHPA contract, specifically three one-time payments and the 3 percent pay raises in 2013 and 2014.

Lingle said the university will be expected to pay that part of the contract on its own, and she suggested that the current tuition increases could be an option.

The university is at the tail-end of a six-year series of tuition increases, which is expected to boost revenue by more than $100 million a year once all the hikes take effect in the 2011-12 school year.

Before the step increases in tuition beginning in 2006, the UH system brought in about $90 million in tuition revenue, compared with the $200 million it is expected to collect in 2012.

The tentative agreement with UHPA was reached on Saturday, a day after a 6.67 percent pay reduction imposed by the university went into effect.

UHPA had filed a request for a temporary restraining order in Circuit Court, but a hearing date was never scheduled.

UHPA spokesman Nathan Hokama said union officials are unwilling to discuss details of the agreement until informational meetings are held with union members this week. Over the weekend, Hokama had suggested the unilaterally imposed faculty salary cuts and the Circuit Court's unresponsiveness to the union's motion for a restraining order played a part in UH and the union reaching the new agreement.

Klaus Keil, professor of planetary science with UH-Manoa's Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and the former chairman of the Manoa Faculty Senate, said the union had been painted into a corner when the university imposed pay cuts on the faculty.

"It is certainly a victory for the administration," Keil said. "It was inevitable that sooner or later UHPA would have to accept a pay cut. What else could we do? The only alternative would be to strike, and that would not serve any good purpose."

Keil said that while the pay increases in the deal may help professors in the long run, professors at retirement age will be hurt by the contract.

"If they're set to retire in 2011, for example, we probably will have some really old people stay on for another two or three years," Keil said.

 
 
 

 

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