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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
June 2, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:31 AM :: 5697 Views

Furlough fight brews: Unions to seek 'injunctive relief'?

Text and Video of speech: Lingle: "Unlike the Federal government, we cannot print money"

Public worker unions contend that Gov. Linda Lingle cannot furlough state workers without union agreement, indicating they are willing to try to block the governor's plan.

Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director, said state workers are already looking at a 26 percent increase in health insurance costs and now will see their pay cut 13.8 percent.

"People are calling and asking how are they going to make it. These additional cuts will be a back-breaker for too many families. It would be economic ruin for too many," Perreira said.

Though Lingle cannot force furloughs on the 21,000 Department of Education workers, 7,400 university system employees and 3,500 health system workers, she is cutting the budgets of those departments and also urging furlough for them.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association protested the pending pay cuts.

"We do not expect public schools to emerge from this economic crisis unscathed," said Roger Takabayashi, HSTA president. "We believe the governor's proposed solutions will inflict unnecessary damage to Hawaii's schools and, more importantly, to the children they serve." The cuts "will also prolong the state's frail economic condition," he said.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature said they doubt Lingle has the legal power to impose furloughs without getting union agreement.

"She is opening the state up to injunctive actions by the unions," said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. And House Speaker Calvin Say called the plan "vulnerable."

Lingle quoted from the state's collective bargaining law, noting, "The employer has the right and obligation to determine the method, means and personnel (by which) the employer's operations are to be conducted."  (Fine words, but this is the same Hawaii Judiciary which gave us Ceded lands and Superferry rulings.)

Advertiser: Lingle orders state employee furloughs , Healthcare cuts will cost all of us, critics say

Labor talks must yield reasonable savings

It's imperative that the governor and the public employee unions negotiate a way to achieve something close to the target savings of $688 million over the biennium. The aim should be a plan that does the least damage to the spending power of employees' families.

One avenue unions should consider is offering a reduction in benefits in exchange for fewer furlough days. For many families, that would be the lesser of evils in these hard times.

Another $42 million is set to be trimmed from free healthcare benefits for low-income adults. The state needs to take care to preserve at least basic coverage to minimize the impact on a healthcare system already overburdened with unreimbursed expenses.

RELATED: Workers say reducing hours will be painful , Maui leaders question decision

Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the governor's action affects only state and not county employees. So far, the county has avoided layoffs, furloughs or cuts in pay for workers, she said. But next fiscal year, "it could be a very different story."

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DOE officials face another $110 million trim

Here's something that's not in any paper: Governor: DoE to establish curriculum

The governor, lacking authority to impose furloughs in the Department of Education or University of Hawaii system, said they must take cuts equivalent in value to furloughs ordered at other state departments. Teachers work a nine-month schedule. Under Lingle's formula, that translates to 27 furlough days a year.

"Taking 27 days out is unacceptable," Toguchi said. "Our priority is to preserve as many instruction days as possible for students."

(OK, then how about 54 days of furlough for bureaucrats and none for teachers.)

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State Worker Reacts To Furlough

"I'm going to calculate my pay. $3000 a month," said a Hawaii state worker.

It's one costly click. One of Hawaii's nearly 50,000 state workers, rushed to her union's website "Pay cut calculator" Monday afternoon. She wanted to see how Governor Lingle's mandatory three furlough days a month the next two years makes a dent in their income.

"$7,553.58," said the worker.

Call her "Liv," for livid.

"I couldn't understand why the state employees have to bear the brunt of this whole situation, this whole crisis," said the worker. 

(See next article)

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Hawaii County employees' Web surfing: No pornographic, illicit sites exposed in logs

HILO -- Certain Hawaii County employees have used taxpayer-financed computers to access on-line classifieds, shop for children's clothes and check sports scores, the county's investigation into possible Internet abuse has found.
Office of the Corporation Counsel employees collectively spent 4 percent of their 2008 Internet time visiting Craigslist, according to information Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida provided Sunday.
The county employees also went to FoxSports, 808 Classifieds, Kraft Foods,, Disney Stores and other Internet sites seemingly unrelated to their work duties.

Employees with the mayor's office used the Internet to visit Macy's,, Avon and Netflix, according to information Ashida provided.

Ashida said he would post a 'summary' of Internet use info at:

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Isles' bankruptcies surged 62% in May

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu accepted 250 filings last month, only one less than April's total and the third-highest level since a change in bankruptcy law in October 2005.

The increase also was about 100 more than a year ago, when 154 petitions were submitted to the local court.

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Rail EIS nearing completion

As the city edges closer to its goal of completing a final environmental impact statement for the estimated $5.4 billion rail transit system, and breaking ground by the end of this year...(just in time for Mufia to run for Gov.)

RELATED: Judges still oppose rail route

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Good News: 3 state Environmental Council members quit

Robert A. King, past council chairman and president of Kahului-based Pacific Biodiesel, said he had a responsibility to step down because the council was unable to accomplish what it is required to do.

"I cannot perform my duties due to a lack of support by the administration," King wrote in his letter to Lingle dated April 7. "Frustration has led me to resign my position."

The low-key council was last in the news in 2007, when it passed a resolution saying the state should conduct an environmental impact statement for the Hawaii Superferry. This opinion came in February, six months before the state Supreme Court arrived at a similar conclusion and forced the high-speed interisland ferry service to suspend operations.

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