Unions at impasse with state

All 13 public worker unions — including those representing police, firefighters, state nurses, and teachers — are at a statutory impasse in labor negotiations with the state as of today. Chief state negotiator Ted Hong, head of the Office of Collective Bargaining, assured the public that talks will continue. “I am pleased with the extraordinary cooperation from the unions and their willingness to continue discussing key issues,” Hong said. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to negotiate new contracts before the current contracts expire on June 30, 2003.”

An impasse has already been declared in negotiations with the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the Hawaii Firefighters Association (HFFA) and state nurses represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA). Today, they will be joined by the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), United Public Workers (UPW), and all other HGEA units.

Some of the unions are considering extending the impasse deadline and continuing with negotiations, Hong said. The firefighters’ union annouced that contract arbitration hearings will reconvene on Monday, February 10.

“I value our state workers and I know they understand we are in very tough economic times,” said Gov. Linda Lingle. “Although the state cannot offer wage increases at this time, we can assure that they will not lose any benefits.”

“We have to all pull together to help turn our state’s economy around,” she added. “My hope is that in the coming years, we will be able to afford the raises our workers deserve and that the public will support our actions because government services and efficiencies have improved.”

The governor also offered encouragement to Hong, who was named to his post on Dec. 20.

“Ted has been on the job for less than a month, and he’s doing a tremendous job in such a difficult situation,” Lingle said.

Hong, a Big Island attorney, was a very visible part of Lingle’s gubernatorial campaign in its final days, representing longtime Democrats that publicly endorsed the Republican ticket under the ad-hoc banner of “Democrats for Lingle.”

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