(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi public teachers union and the governor went back and forth through the media on Wednesday, as the possibility of pay cuts for public employees has become a hot topic of discussion during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association first sounded the alarm to its members on Tuesday evening, saying they and other public sector unions “received ominous news from Gov. David Ige’s administration” during a meeting at the state Capitol.
Teachers and other public employees could see a 20-percent salary cut, HSTA reported, while first responders – such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, and EMTs – might see a 10-percent cut.
“According to the governor’s human resources and budget directors, the cuts are meant to prevent an economic collapse as the coronavirus pandemic cuts off a major source of state revenue. We were not given any formal proposal, and it is unclear if the governor intends to implement these cuts as furloughs or across-the-board salary decreases,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said in a message to members. “This is unacceptable. While we recognize the coronavirus has already started to cripple Hawaii’s economy, no one can be sure of its long-term impacts. We believe cutting salaries for tens of thousands of state workers is rash and will hurt our state even more.”
Rosenlee and other educators participated in an online news conference with media on Wednesday, during which they explained how the proposed cuts will impact their lives.
Their concerns were later relayed to Governor David Ige, who held his own press conference an hour later.
Governor Ige delivered his own statement on the situation:
To all my fellow employees of the State of Hawaiʻi. These are very challenging times, and your efforts and dedication are helping to shepherd our community through the COVID-19 crisis. Many of you were informed recently by your union or read the news reports of proposed budget cuts. Let me be very frank with you, due to this crisis the main sources of state revenue have been drastically reduced. And state government needs to look very different going forward. I have begun initial conversations with the Legislature and the unions that represent you, but no decisions have been made yet. These discussions are ongoing and we will keep you informed and updated on what this means for you in the days to come.
I wish that I could speak to each of you personally and express my heartfelt thanks for your hard work and commitment to the people of Hawaiʻi. I am very proud of everything that we have accomplished. And I know that, together, we will defeat this pandemic and protect the health of our families, friends and neighbors. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. And, most importantly, take care of our community.
“We know this is a scary situation,” Rosenlee told HSTA members. “We are actively working to get more details and will inform you of the latest developments as soon as we can. HSTA and other public sector unions have made it clear to the governor that this will exacerbate our weakening economy, hurt government employees, and potentially prolong this crisis.”
“We stand united and will not accept the governor’s plan without exploring every last alternative to keep these harmful cuts from happening,” Rosenlee said.