In Malama Pono

Union leaders call for Ige to stop the furloughs

One day after Gov. David Ige announced plans to furlough tens of thousands of employees in his state workforce, details are emerging showing the so-called plan actually isn’t one. 

The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) have learned that each state department director has been given a very short window to determine which employees to furlough and/or if an exemption should be sought with no guidance or parameters. Union leaders are hearing reports of confusion among top department heads about how they are supposed to roll out the furloughs. Additionally union leaders have been told that each department may be directed to implement furloughs independently from the other departments.

It’s downright scary that these are the people who are leading the economic recovery and essential services that affect the health and functioning of our state. The Ige administration should halt this ridiculous plan now before more damage is done to the workers, public services and Hawaii’s economy.

Yesterday, Ige announced in his news conference that 24/7 operations, first responders and public safety employees would be exempt from furloughs. He also exempted federally funded positions and departments that generate their own revenue such as the Hawaii Department of Transportation (Airports, Highways and Harbors Divisions) and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Many state departments either receive federal funds or generate revenue which may make them eligible to opt their employees out of the furlough. 

In another contradiction to his public statement on furloughs, state sheriffs and conservation resource officers are NOT on the furlough exemption list even though they are first responders and have law enforcement powers.

While Ige said Wednesday Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto would release furlough plans for educators, Kishimoto emailed a message to all Department of Education employees the same day that said, in part, “The governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining is the lead on these active negotiations; therefore, we do not have details of the specific impact to HIDOE employees at this time.”

All four unions have valid contracts in place and none of the unions have agreed to furloughs. 

Announcing a drastic nearly 10% pay cut to workers though a furlough will hobble a key pillar of Hawaii’s economic engine—government workers—when economic recovery is so critical.

HGEA, HSTA, UPW, and UHPA collectively call on the governor to halt this ill-timed, poorly planned furlough implementation and to respect the contracts of tens of thousands of his dedicated employees.

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