County faces prohibited practices complaint for 4-day workweek

LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i is under fire for its implementation of a four-day 10-hour work schedule.

The Hawai‘i Government Employees Association has filed a Prohibited Practices Complaint against the county.

Mayor Derek Kawakami announced the change on April 30, temporarily shifting employee hours to 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. This schedule gives employees Friday off. This will be in effect until the state’s disaster proclamation is lifted or when school resumes, whichever arrives first.

“This temporary emergency action was taken in the name of public health, and is in line with authority under emergency state laws,” Kawakami said in a statement Wednesday. “We respect HGEA’s right to disagree with how much collective bargaining process must be maintained to initiate temporary changes to working conditions during an emergency.”

The lawsuit is currently pending before the Hawa‘i Labor Relations Board, according to HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira. HGEA could not comment any further.

Perreira, however, submitted a public testimony to the Kaua‘i County Council earlier this month about the change.

In it, Perreira writes that the HGEA “raises no concerns over the concept of a mutually agreed upon temporary 4-10 work agreement between employees and the County Administration, however, we raise strong opposition to the Employer unilaterally mandating this immediate change to employees’ work schedules.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the county had surveyed employees about a 4-10 workweek. Pererria notes that while the schedule is preferred by some, for others, this would be a “drastic change” for those navigating education, child or kupuna care, other jobs and physical limitations.

County employees do have the option to request an exemption from the 4-10, but, as Perreira notes, “it places the burden on the employee to disclose confidential health or personal issues for other departments and individuals to review.”

Vice Chair Ross Kagawa called for a special meeting with Kawakami and county Managing Director Michael Dahilig in early May to understand the reasoning behind the change.

“I think when you deal with changing the hours of 400 of our county employees without going through the process of public hearings or having the legislative side give their stamp of approval … this is not a small move,” Kagawa said during that meeting, noting that it opened up the county to potential legal action. “This is a big move.”

Wednesday, Kawakami explained that the helps to limit employee movement by up to 20% by reducing one workday per week.

“The pandemic emergency has required everyone to think outside the box when it comes to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19,” Kawakami said in a statement. “As the second-largest employer on island, we know reducing movement reduces the risk of the disease moving.”

A copy of the complaint is not publicly available until an order or decision is made, according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“While a 4-10 may work for some, it clearly does not work for all,” Perreira wrote.

  1. another reason... May 28, 2020 6:28 am Reply

    Another great reason to deny public employees membership in “unions”. Private employees, are OK to organize, but public employees: no way! When this type of stuff hits the fan, HGEA does not endear itself to working people who have their livelihoods constantly on the block! Government employers should always be able to modify/change in an emergency the terms of public employment. C’mon Perreira: terms of employment clearly NEVER works for all…but there are “perks” for public employment that other working people will NEVER enjoy! For those for whom it does not work, there are always extended Unemployment benefits that can be applied for. The nerve of a public union costing Kauai taxpayers even more because of a frivolous complaint or lawsuit…and during a pandemic on top of that! Shame on HGEA, and Perreira! The mayor and council members are publicly elected! HGEA and Perreira are elected by “members only”.

    1. RevW May 28, 2020 11:36 am Reply

      Are YOU willing to balance normal responsibilities like elder care & childcare against a *mandated*, open ended, arbitrary decree that you be at work from 6:45a.m – 5:30 p.m. 4 days a week. You’d have no problem with having to get up at 5:30 or earlier to get to work, and having to do all ordinary daily work week activities after 5:30 p.m. ? There goes the 20% reduction in “employee movement” out the window. How about County services provided by those 400 people being unavailable to the public, including you – you don’t need it from Thursday at 5:30 until Monday morning? Anything those 400 people do that has to be done between Thursday @ 5:30 p.m. through Monday morning is **overtime** at 150 – 200%- no problems having that paid for by your taxpayer contribution?

      Do you also think that’extended unemployment benefits are something an individual can simply walk in and ask for, after resigning from a position? You, the taxpayer, cover part of unemployment, too. Having any percentage of those 400 people no longer working also would result in more overtime for the remaining employees and less availability of services to anybody.
      Any employee with a Union membership is covered by the most recent Union agreed upon contract. Arbitrary deviation from that agreement is another form of breach of contract. (You can add in what the State DOLI rules are, too.) Unions exist to protect employees from this sort of unilateral action, whether the Union is private sector or government. When a Union – public or private sector – moves toward suing an employer on behalf of Union members, it is initially this statement: ” *negotiate* with the Union, or we’ll have to take legal action (including but not limited to lawsuits).

      Being a government employee does not include exclusion from labor laws and denial of Union protections. If it did, we’d be running ALL of government with the lowest bidders. The public does not own public employees, nor are we a Socialist society where ‘public service’ outweighs individual or ‘group’ rights.

  2. kauaicsense May 28, 2020 7:41 am Reply

    People will always find something to grumble about. This is the society we live in today, a bunch of negative, complaining babies. people, suck it up for the greater good this situation. The 4-10 schedule has many benefits. The 4-10 schedule definitely helps alleviate morning and afternoon traffic congestion back and forth from Lihue by offsetting the times people are driving to work. This is a major benefit to everyone on island.

  3. Nike May 28, 2020 9:10 am Reply

    This is genius idea that I read about in the New York Times about a few weeks back. I wished at the time that it wasn’t just written in opinion section. It talked about exploiting the weakness of the virus and incubation suggesting 4 days of work and 10 days off. I hope the Mayor and our state won’t be punished for being innovative.

  4. LJA May 28, 2020 9:48 am Reply

    Mr. Mayor, that’s great, “ Thinking outside the box”. But think about what that really means. What is the “ Box”?? The “Box” is COMMON SENSE. When that term is used,”Think outside the Box”, It means to ignore common sense. .
    Why not have some of the County staff be off on Fridays and others be off on Mondays? BUT ALL VOLUNTARY, so as NOT to affect their private and personal lives. That way you’re also not inconveniencing the residents and taxpayers to providing county services for only 4 days a week. And for those employees that choose not to go on the 4-10 week, their 8 hours per day could be more flexible within the 10 hours, providing more flexibility for their personal lives.
    This would also provide 10 additional hours per week for residents to access county services.
    In addition, not all county employees can be allowed the 4-10 option. I imagine (I hope), there are some employees that work alongside contractors as inspectors or overseers where contractors will still be working the regular 5-8 workweek.
    This would also considerably “reduce employee movement” on both Mondays and Fridays.

    1. CommonCents May 28, 2020 12:28 pm Reply

      I don’t think you understand what thinking outside the box is. Common sense would let you understand that letting some people be off Friday and some being off Monday would defeat the purpose of doing the 4 day work week. One extra day of no one driving to be at work as well as having no customers driving there.
      If people want to make their own schedules like you are suggesting, then they can always be self employed. If there is a good reason to not change their work schedule there is an exemption. Also, this isn’t even a permanent change.

  5. kauaidoug May 28, 2020 10:08 am Reply

    Let the one that want to work 5 days work 5 days and those that are in favor of 3 do that. It extends the work day and access by the taxpayers(before and after work) to the county services. But wait , then there will be a grumble from those who want to work the 4 days instead after seeing how much their 4 day workers enjoy their 3 day weekend! No making anyone happy but change and this is only temporary, is never easy. But really to cost money for the taxpayers over this? Nope, not now.

  6. kauaidoug May 28, 2020 10:11 am Reply

    OOps I meant in favor of 4 days. Phat Fingers and no edit to post.

  7. Papakoolau May 28, 2020 11:22 am Reply

    This was bound to happen when they first proposed it . No communication made with union like no communication with council members who are duly elected officials that represent the people. Seeing a pattern here.

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