County, HGEA reach agreement

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council approved two bills Wednesday containing collective bargaining agreements for government employees.

Councilmembers Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, JoAnn Yukimura and Mel Rapozo, council chair, approved Bill No. 2656, as it relates to collective bargaining agreement for Units 2 and 13 between July 1 and June 30, 2019, and Bill No. 2657, which is the collective bargaining for Units 3 and 4 for the same year.

The Garden Isle is last in the state to approve wages for those for units.

“HGEA appreciates the Kauai Council’s support in passing legislation to fund modest salary increases awarded through the recent arbitration decision,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Councilmembers Arthur Brun, Derek Kawakami and Mason Chock were not present at the meeting and were excused from the vote.

When the collective bargaining process started this year, Gov. David Ige offered no increases, but then offered zero percent increases for two years with a one percent bonus on their salary, said Caroline Sluyter, spokesperson for HGEA.

That offer was rejected by HGEA, and that’s why it went into arbitration, Sluyter said.

Arbitration hearings started in February and the decision was handed down in April.

Unit 2 represents supervisory employees in blue-collar positions and has 730 members, according to the HGEA website.

Employees in that category will receive a 2 percent increase across the board, according to Bill No. 2656.

They will see that reflected in their July 31 paycheck, according to county officials.

Also, effective Jan. 1, 2018, workers in Unit 2 will receive a 1.2 percent across the board increase and a 2.25 percent increase in January. In 2019, they will see another 1.2 percent increase.

Unit 13, which has 7,190 members, represents professional and scientific employees.

On July 31, those employees will get a 2 percent increase across the board.

On July 1, 2018, they will receive a 2.25 percent across the board.

“We got to be fair for all county employees,” Rapozo said Wednesday. “Everybody has their job to do in this county. This package gets you closer to where it should be. It’s a very small pay raise, but that part of it is beyond our control.”

Donna Olivas-Kaohi, a HGEA member who works for the Agency on Elderly Affairs, testified last week during a committee meeting.

“I absolutely love what I do, and I’m grateful for a steady income,” she said. “However, I am a single mom, so I do have to supplement my income with two other part-time jobs.”

Living paycheck to paycheck is hard, she said.

“A medical condition or a big car repair bill sets your budget back. It’s hard to tell your child to wait to buy new football cleats because he outgrew the ones he was wearing since last year,” she said. “It’s a struggle to decide if you’re going to pay your electric bill late because you have to buy groceries for your family, or you have to put off buying medication or a vitamin supplement because your car is on “E” and you have to choose between picking up gas and getting something your body needs to function.”

Olivas-Kaohi and Iris Craig, another HGEA member on Kauai, asked the council support the bill.

“I have to work two jobs, which I don’t really want to do, but I don’t make enough,” she said.

Unit 3, which has 15,500 members, represents non-supervisory employees in white-collar positions. Unit 4 contains 830 members and represents supervisory employees in white-collar positions.

On July 31, county employees in both units will see a 2 percent increase across the board in their paychecks. They will also receive a one-time $150 bonus for employees.

Then, on Jan. 1, 2018, those same employees will receive a 1.5 percent increase. In July 2018, they will receive 2.25 percent increase.

On Jan. 1, 2019, employees will receive 1.25 percent increase across the board.

“These small pay increases are sorely needed, not only to recruit and retain our skilled workforce that keeps vital government services running, but also to attempt to keep up with the ever increasing cost of living and skyrocketing cost of housing,” Perreira said.

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