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Why Hasn’t Hawaii Hired A Chief Negotiator For Union Talks?

By Chad Blair; Civil Beat; January 5, 2017

Gov. David Ige has still not found a chief labor negotiator even though he is involved in sensitive talks with six public-sector unions.

That is not sitting well with state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

At a budget briefing Thursday at the Capitol, Tokuda peppered Ige’s chief of staff with questions about why the position was not filled after a lengthy vacancy.

Mike McCartney said the administration has talked to a number of people about the job but had not yet found “the right fit.” He described the search for a qualified candidate as “challenging.”

Chief of Staff Mike McCartney looks on as Gov. David Ige answers reporters’ questions at the Honolulu Civil Beat offices in December 2015. (Cory Lum)

Tokuda said he was worried about James Nishimoto, director of the state’s Department of Human Resources Development, having to do both jobs, as he is subbing as chief negotiator.

She suggested that perhaps Nishimoto should leave the department and concentrate on the union talks, as both positions entail significant responsibilities.

Tokuda said the double-duty was not fair to either Nishimoto or to the state, and might be hurting both offices.

Tokuda and her counterpart on the House Finance Committee, Rep. Sylvia Luke, are frustrated that the governor’s current budget does not factor in pay raises for the 14 labor union units.

The unions involved are the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the United Public Workers, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

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