LIHU‘E — The county’s implementation of a four-day, 10-hour work week always had temporary intentions.
Mayor Derek Kawakami announced the change at the end of April, to shift employee hours to 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Then, he said it would only be in effect until the state’s disaster proclamation was lifted or when school resumed, whichever arrived first.
“After the (state Department of Education) recently announced that schools would resume on Aug. 4, we followed through with our commitment to revert back to a five-day work week, in an effort to allow proper time for employees to adjust to schools reopening,” Kawakami said in a statement last week.
He kept that promise, and the county will resume five-day operations Tuesday. But the initial decision was still contentious.
In May, the Hawai‘i Government Employees Association filed a prohibited-practices complaint against the county with the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board, alleging the county intentionally and willfully violated collective-bargaining laws in Chapter 89, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, which states the county must consult and negotiate provisions affecting changing employee work conditions, and work toward a mutual consent and agreement.
On July 20, the board denied motions filed by the county to dismiss the prohibited-practice case concerning the mandatory four-day, 10-hour-day work schedule, and precluded HGEA from introducing testimony and evidence that Gov. David Ige did not suspend HRS Chapter 89.
The board ruled that Ige’s emergency proclamations did not suspend HRS Chapter 89 in its entirety.
“We also believe that the board’s rulings support our position that Kaua‘i County cannot unilaterally change employees’ work schedules without first consulting and negotiating with HGEA,” the union said in a statement to The Garden Island Friday.
“We’re not against the idea of modifying work schedules so long as the parties mutually agree to the terms and conditions of the modified work schedule. But, we’re strongly opposed to the way this administration refused to bargain and unilaterally implemented changes on county employees, which violated their collective-bargaining agreements.”
Of 82 HGEA members surveyed, 17 were in favor, six were neutral, and 59 opposed the schedule change when it was proposed.
A hearing on the merits of the case is scheduled later this week.
The county went to the temporary, four-day, 10-hour-day work week to reduce movement on the island, with the intent of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus by up to 20%, for certain county employees, and limiting interaction with other residents. The county, one of the largest employers on the island, employs about 400 people.
Hanama‘ulu resident Kahealani Hamakua had trouble getting her motor-vehicle registration done because the Department of Finance’s Motor Vehicle Registration office was closed.
“I truly believe (the schedule change) affected a lot of people,” Hamakua said.
Kawakami acknowledged that this time has been a reflective period, and ensured the county would continue to meet community needs.
“However, I recognize that the pandemic has forced everyone to relook at the way we work and the way we engage with our family,” Kawakami said. “While all offices will be open to the public five days a week, we are continuing to work with our associates to provide flexible options that meet their own individual needs while maintaining excellent service in their department.”
Kalaheo resident Kawai Parraga doesn’t think the county’s schedule change will make much of a difference.
Parraga didn’t have any problems when the county was on the modified schedule, and was able to get motor-vehicle registration painlessly. However, since many officers were closed for a period, there’s a backlog, and appointments are booked up.
“Regardless if they’re open four or five days, they won’t be able to serve everyone who needs it with the appointment intervals they have now,” Parraga said.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.