Teachers Approve Invalid Contract

By Essoyan, Susan | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, May 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Teachers Approve Invalid Contract


Essoyan, Susan, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Hawaii teachers have approved by a 2-to-1 margin a contract agreement they had previously rejected, even though the governor has said the offer is no longer valid.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association said Wednesday 66 percent of teachers who voted supported the contract agreement, while 34 percent were opposed. The teachers union would not disclose how many teachers voted. The union has about 12,500 members.

Polling ended Tuesday.

Wil Okabe, president of the teachers union, acknowledged in a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday that the governor has said the contract agreement, which was rejected by teachers in January, is no longer valid.

"However, just as we asked teachers to reconsider their position, we now ask you to reconsider yours," Okabe wrote. "Hawaii's children deserve nothing less from all of us."

Abercrombie, in a statement, said the new vote would be seriously considered if the teachers union returns to the bargaining table. The governor asked the union to submit a new proposal to the state.

"Now is a good time for HSTA to submit a new proposal for discussion. When HSTA decides to return to collective bargaining, the vote results will be seriously considered. Our team remains prepared to negotiate," the governor said. "The end of the school year is fast approaching. We appreciate the work that our teachers have done for student achievement and we look forward to resolving this labor dispute with their union."

Okabe said in an interview that the teachers union has no plans to submit a new offer to the state. He said he believes Abercrombie has the authority to accept the new vote as ratification of the tentative agreement reached in January.

The state contends that the six-year contract proposal has "no legal standing" after teachers voted it down by a 2-to-1 margin in January. The contract would continue 5 percent wage reductions through June 30, 2013, before moving to a new salary schedule that recognizes teachers' length of service. It would also make teachers eligible for 1 percent raises annually for those rated "effective" or "highly effective."

Union officials said they held the second vote in an effort to help the state hang on to a $75 million federal grant for education reform. Okabe said before the vote that the union considers it a "good and viable agreement." Members voted electronically and via telephone from last Thursday through Tuesday. …

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