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.