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MSW Program Awarded Team of the Year & Employee of the Year!

Another story of Union ingenuity in the face of failures with privatization.

"First of all, this wouldn’t have been possible without the team [Multi-Skilled Worker (MSW) Team],” said UPW Chief Steward Andrew “Keoki” Medeiros in his acceptance speech for the Employee of the Year award. In closing and in recognition of the important work the Department of Human Services Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA) does, as a whole, to keep needy families off the streets, he said, “This is for our whole Department, not just me.”

Having advocated an MSW Program at HPHA for years, pride only begins to express our Union’s sentiment for an outstanding job by the various members who elected to participate in efforts to do our part in addressing Hawaii’s issues with homelessness. It clearly takes a good team to do such important work, and it was fitting that the MSW Pilot Program participants be recognized.

“The Union recognizes there are still challenges for the housing program, including short staffing, and we continue to work with the Employer to address those issues,” says State Director Dayton M. Nakanelua. “With the State still maintaining liability at privately managed and maintained facilities, privatization proves pointless as UPW members in the MSW program are still required to respond to emergencies at these properties. This is just another example of why privatization does not work.”

Additionally, certain individuals were unable to participate in the MSW Pilot Program for various reasons, including personal reasons preventing them from making the commute to the central maintenance baseyard in Kalihi. As HPHA members were informed at baseyard meetings at the outset of the pilot, the State Director remains committed to seeing the MSW program extended to individuals within the Asset Management Projects (AMPs). Similarly, they would have the opportunity to learn new skills and receive compensation commensurate to their new skill set, while remaining in the AMPs. “The upkeep and maintenance of housing facilities is as important as ensuring vacancy availability,” he says. “Regardless of how quickly a unit can be made ready to receive new residents, AMP facilities and individual dwelling units must still be maintained. Members working in the AMPS are an integral part of the team at HPHA.”

HPHA Director Hakim Ouansafi is also committed to the plan. When we spoke with him back in December, Ouansafi said the Department is requesting 30 new MSW positions this session. According to Ouansafi, occupancy rates are at 94% and the MSW pilot program is meeting its goal of bringing housing units to move-in ready condition, generally, within 7 days.

Up for State recognition, the MSW pilot program earned the Department of Human Services Team of the Year award and Keoki (also a part of the program) earned the award for Employee of the Year. Thanks to the hardworking members of UPW, the Housing Program is well on its way to justifying funding for additional staffing. This legislative session, our Government Affairs team will be working at the legislature toward that end.

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