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HSTA Files Complaint With Labor Board After Announcement of Furloughs

December 20, 2020, 10:09 AM HST
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Corey Rosenlee. HSTA photo.

The Hawai‘i State Teachers Association (HSTA) is challenging the state’s decision to impose furloughs on its 13,000 union employees.

On Dec. 18, HSTA filed a prohibited practice complaint (PPC) with the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board (HLRB), after the Hawai‘i Department of Education’s announcement that employees would be furloughed for at least two days next year.

The complaint says the state does not have the authority to impose furloughs without bargaining, since HSTA has a contract in place until June 30, 2021.

“Collective bargaining is enshrined in Hawai‘i’s constitution, and contracts cannot be dismissed when the governor considers them inconvenient,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “Otherwise, why have a contract? If these illegal furloughs are implemented, Gov. Ige would be the third governor in a row to cut teacher pay. Such a move would be bad for education, worsen Hawai‘i’s teacher shortage crisis, and ultimately hurt our keiki. Enough is enough.”

In a letter emailed to employees at 9:20 p.m. on Dec. 15, HIDOE announced furlough days were scheduled for Jan. 4 and Feb. 12. The letter also details a list of potential furlough days if Gov. David Ige decides they are needed.

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“If the furlough is effective for a year, this will help reduce the projected $1.4 billion budget shortfall in the state’s general fund,” the letter stated. “At the direction of Governor Ige, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education hereby notifies all employees that furlough days will begin on January 4, 2021.”

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According to the HSTA complaint, the employer’s refusal to bargain in good faith and the unilateral implementation of its furlough plan while negotiations are ongoing is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“The Employer’s unlawful and inappropriate conduct has a chilling effect on HSTA’s members in the exercise of their union rights by creating fear and worry amongst HSTA’s members,” the complaint reads.

Neither Ige nor Superintendent Christina Kishimoto communicated or discussed the final furlough implementation plan in advance with HSTA, according to the complaint.

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The HLRB is expected to schedule a hearing on this case during which it will hear arguments.

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