LIHU‘E — Approximately 22 minutes after the Hawai‘i Government Employees Association received the final version of an advisory switching county working hours to a four-day, 10-hour-day work schedule, county employees received it.
HGEA filed a prohibited-practices complaint against the county in May, which is currently before the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board for a hearing on merits, which continued yesterday.
The case wades into whether the county willfully and intentionally violated collective-bargaining laws in Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 89, by modifying employee work conditions and failing to work toward a mutual-consent agreement before switching to a four-day, 10-hour workweek.
Kawakami testified on July 30 that because exemptions were given to every employee who asked, this would make the four-day workweek voluntary, and not mandatory, as Stacy Moniz, advocacy chief for the HGEA, has argued.
County employees were sent the final advisory mid-day April 29 and initially required the submittal of a request for an exemption by the end of the next day to the county Department of Human Resources and the Mayor’s Office. Employees had to fill out the form with their name, department, position and “specific reason(s) why a 4-10 schedule will cause hardship for you,” according to “COVID-19 Advisory #5,” sent to county employees on April 29.
The county also issued a video to explain the temporary schedule and exemption policy. Employees submitted requests citing elder or child care and second/third jobs, among other reasons.
Prior to any decision being made, Kawakami said he solicits the advice and vetting of proper department heads, in this case, with the county’s human resource department and county attorney, to ensure he’s following state rules, statutes and emergency powers.
Kawakami testified that the idea for the four-day, 10-hour-day workweek was first discussed with an incident-management team while looking for creative ways to manage movement around the island as to not spread COVID-19.
Small actions like changing county employee hours, a curfew and mandating masks, were all contributing factors to the county’s low coronavirus confirmed case count, he said.
In testimony earlier this week, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said Kawakami personally called him about the consideration of the temporary workweek and then had a draft proposal sent to the union.
This draft was used to solicit a response from HGEA members in late April. Of about 80 affected employees who responded back, 60 were opposed. HGEA is the exclusive arbitrator on behalf of county union employees.
Discussions including standing conference calls between HGEA representatives and county Department of Human Resources followed up until and following the issuing of the temporary workweek, requesting more details on the change. Perreira also sent a letter on April 22 stating that the proposed change is negotiable and required mutual agreement before implementation.
The last master collective bargaining agreement contract with HGEA units 3, 4 and 13 expired in June 2019. Because of that, the county has a practice of following the latest agreement and does not create supplemental agreements, which would be subject to negotiations, testified county DHR Manager Janine Rapozo.
The county returned to a five-day, eight-hour-day schedule on July 27. There have been county employees who have requested remaining on the four-day workweek and have sought approval from their department heads, the county and HGEA.
Advisory No. 5 states that overtime for affected employees will be earned for those working in excess of a scheduled, 10-hour day, and requests for overtime would not be approved for teleworking employees.
In a separate arbitration, HGEA is pursuing overtime compensation for affected employees who worked more than the contractual eight-hour shifts during the temporary, 10-hour-day work schedule.
On July 20, HLRB issued an oral ruling in HGEA’s favor, stating that Chapter 89 was not suspended by Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamations relating to COVID-19.
HLRB is continuing the hearing on the workweek case today.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.