LIHU‘E — County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig testified that the temporary four-day, 10-hour work schedule was an operational decision necessary to reduce movement and the spread of coronavirus yesterday in a Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board hearing on merits via Zoom.
The board heard opening statements and from two witnesses in Hawai‘i Government Employees Association v. Mayor Derek Kawakami of Kaua‘i.
In May, HGEA filed a prohibited-practices complaint against the county with the board. Now, HGEA must prove that the county willfully and intentionally 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 by changing to a temporary four-day, 10-hour workweek.
Stacy Moniz, Advocacy Chief for the HGEA, argued that a change from a five-day, eight-hour workweek to a modified four-day, 10-hour day changes working conditions, overtime and work hours was made without merit, formal negotiations and mutual consent and agreement on these terms.
In opening statements, Deputy County Attorney Mark Bradbury argued the county did not act in willful defiance and did engage in discussion with HGEA and took its considerations into account and added an exemption process, but that HGEA wanted more negotiations.
Bradbury said the county administration had to act swiftly in the face of the pandemic, consulted Chapter 89 and statewide emergency orders, and found the temporary modified schedule was reasonable to mitigate the spread coronavirus by up to 20%, for about 400 county employees, and limiting interaction with other residents. Moniz argued there is no scientific evidence of this. The county cited stay-at-home orders and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging social distancing.
The county contacted HGEA regarding the temporary work schedule on April 16 and sent proposals of the temporary work schedule. The county also pushed back the implementation of the schedule from April 27 to May 4 to allow HGEA time to reach out to members, but that wasn’t enough time or formally negotiated, according to the union.
Kaulana Finn, Kaua‘i division chief for HGEA, testified that the county has gone through similar negotiations before and the processes were laid out.
In August 2019, the county approached HGEA about moving to a 9-80 work schedule, which would require eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day then one day off in a 14-day cycle. HGEA reached out to members, and reported an overwhelmingly negative reception to this.
Moniz said negotiations with the county and HGEA took place recently to change Ocean Safety Bureau members to a four-day, 10-hour work schedule, effective June 25 of this year.
The county has since gone back to a 5-day work week, with employees working eight hours Monday through Friday. But some employees, notably in the Finance Department, requested continuing the 4-10.
These employees have since signed agreements with HGEA and the county to remain on this schedule. Negotiations lasted about a week and were signed Tuesday, according to Moniz.
Dahilig said he was not intimately aware of these most recent discussions and if discussions last August were done incorrectly.
Last week, the board ruled that Ige’s emergency proclamations did not suspend HRS Chapter 89 in its entirety. The board also ruled that this trial will be bifurcated, meaning it would be split between Chapter 89 and the merits of Chapter 127A, if the board moves in that direction.
“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,” HGEA said in a statement last week.
HLRB will continue the hearings on case no. 20-CE-03-946a-c Wednesday morning.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.