The state, in its response Thursday to the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s prohibited practice complaint over labor talks, rejected the teachers’ contention that there was a statewide governmental policy to impose 5 percent labor savings and an equal split on health insurance premiums on all public-sector unions.
The teachers’ union has argued that such a policy would violate their constitutional right to collective bargaining.
The state contends that Gov. Neil Abercrombie did not establish such a policy, but acknowledges that the governor had spoken about his preferences for 5 percent labor savings as early as January.
The state also acknowledged that its chief negotiator, Neil Dietz, mentioned the potential for 10 percent labor savings and other consequences from a Senate budget draft during negotiations, but notes that there is no allegation that the administration controls the Legislature.
From the state’s response:
Once again, Respondent Dietz admits that he stated that a Senate budget proposal contained a 10% across the board cut, that “nasty things can happen if we let someone else control what happens” and that “we are in a better position if we reach an agreement on cost items” or words generally to that effect.
Those statements were made in a context where Respondent Dietz had also informed HSTA that the Governor had met with Senate and House leaders and personally asked them to hold off implementing any sort of 10% across the board budget cut because there were valid offers on the table with HSTA and UPW.
At the time these statements were made to HSTA the legislature was in fact in the middle of its budget reconciliation process and Dietz duly informed HSTA of this fact as well and indicated that the parties were indeed now at a “make it or break it point” with the budget.
In any event the Legislature is not a named Respondent nor is there any allegation that the named Respondents control the Legislature, a prerequisite if any action of the Legislature is to be imputed to Respondents. Accordingly, the budgetary actions of the Legislature are irrelevant to the instant complaint.
The state agrees with the teachers that the labor talks at times turned heated, such as when Dietz exclaimed: “This is serious f—–g s—t,” and hit the table with his notebook.
Respondents admit that Dietz made his feelings quite well known to the HSTA team, but Dietz denies that he needed to be “calmed down” by anyone, much less an HSTA representative.
The state claims that it had the right to implement its “last, best and final offer” because there was a “common law” impasse in addition to a statutory impasse.
From the state law:
After the fiftieth day of impasse, the parties may resort to such other remedies that are not prohibited by any agreement pending between them, other provisions of this chapter, or any other law.