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Star Advertiser: Pay Raises Negotiated for Hawaii Public Worker Union

February 18, 2022

State labor negotiators have come to terms with one of Hawaii’s larger public workforce unions on a new four-year contract that provides roughly 4% to 5% pay raises in each of the next three fiscal years.

The deal was reached with a United Public Workers unit representing around 6,000 blue-collar, nonsupervisory workers whose representatives began negotiating with Gov. David Ige’s administration almost two years ago shortly after the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

During much of this time, Ige was exploring potential labor savings as the local economy crashed and severely cut into tax revenues.

Now, with the state flush with an anticipated budget surplus of around $1 billion largely infused by the federal government and a rebounding economy, the public worker pay picture has reversed.

The new collective bargaining contract for the UPW unit is retroactive to July 1, given that the prior contract’s scheduled end was June 30. Members working at that time are set to receive a one-time $1,000 payment under terms of the new deal.

Then pay raises would kick in starting with a 3.72% increase effective Oct. 1, followed by 5% on July 1, 2023, and 5% on July 1, 2024.

Ryker Wada, the state’s chief labor negotiator and director of the state Department of Human Resources Development, declined to comment on the result because lawmakers still must consider funding the negotiated pay increases, which leaves a possibility that a deal may have to be renegotiated.

A UPW representative was not available for comment Thursday. On the union’s website, UPW Administrator Liz Ho expressed thanks to the organization’s executive negotiating committee for the long effort.

“They faced unprecedented challenges while always keeping the best interests of UPW members at heart,” Ho stated.

UPW reported that 93% of unit members ratified the deal last week. Ige notified state lawmakers about the agreement Wednesday in a memo outlining total costs over the contract term.

Most other local public-­sector labor unions representing state and county workers have either current two-year or unsettled contracts.

For instance, the roughly 13,500-member Hawaii State Teachers Association last summer obtained a two-year contract running from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2023, providing no pay raises. Other unions agreed to similar contracts in 2021 as well.

A second UPW unit representing around 2,700 institutional, health and correctional workers reached a new contract in 2021 that did not add to the state’s pay expenses.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly also has a 2021-2023 contract with no base salary adjustments.

The largest public-sector labor union in the state is the Hawaii Government Employees Association with about 37,000 working members among nine units. All but two of the units have contracts in place through June 30, 2023, including at least several agreed to in 2021 without extra pay expenses to the state.

However, these HGEA unit contracts allow for reopener negotiations, which are underway, according to HGEA spokesman Alexander Zannes.

One HGEA unit representing about 1,100 registered nurses reached a new four-year contract in January that includes pay increases.

Another HGEA unit was formed in 2021 to represent state and county ocean safety and water safety officers separately from state law enforcement officers, and is in the process of negotiating its first contract.

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