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READ: Maui hospital workers’ payout bill not a ‘sweetheart’ deal

July 07, 2016

Please take a moment to read an Op-Ed by HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira regarding the state’s privatization of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation's Maui Region hospitals. The piece appears in today's issue of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The text of the Op-Ed appears below, or click here to read the piece online (Honolulu Star-Advertiser login required.)
 
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It’s unfortunate and a great disservice to all public sector workers that the Star-Advertiser’s past few editorials about Senate Bill 2077 and Gov. David Ige’s announcement to place it on the veto list were rife with cynicism and misleading information, based on assumptions and prejudices toward hard-working public employees.
 
The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) has been advocating for Ige to sign SB 2077 into law, to do what is right during the state’s privatization of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s Maui Region hospitals — the largest privatization to date — which permanently removes approximately 1,400 workers from the state workforce.
 
We are greatly disappointed that the governor now has put the bill on his veto list.
As a union, HGEA works to ensure our members are treated with fairness and dignity, and that their rights are not violated.
 
The state is intent on breaching its bargaining unit contracts with the union as it privatizes Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital.
 
With SB 2077, the union sought to make sure the state remedied breaking the legally bound agreements.
 
Similarly, if we as consumers choose to opt out of a contract with a merchant or service provider, we can expect to incur fees and damages for not fulfilling our obligations.
 
What the union is seeking for those affected members is not exorbitant, as the editors attempted to portray.
 
If the editors had done a thorough job researching this issue before quickly judging the bill’s merit, they would have scrutinized the financial information and realized the numbers don’t add up.
 
The severance amount isn’t a figure the union dreamed up. The severance formula is from former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s civil service reform legislation, which passed during the 2000 legislative session and was fully supported by the editorial boards of Honolulu’s major newspapers at the time.
 
And while it’s true that Kaiser Permanente has guaranteed the Maui region hospital workers employment for six months, it is uncertain what may happen to them after that period ends.
 
Continuing to characterize this as a “sweetheart” deal — a term usually reserved for corruption and corporate deals with shareholders and CEOs who earn millions of dollars a year — is unfair and not deserving to this group of hard-working, dedicated, middle-class wage-earners.
 
We also take umbrage with the characterization that SB 2077 negatively affects the state’s Employees’ Retirement System fund, as it is never mentioned that the ERS will be affected much more by removing the 1,400 workers who are now contributing to the fund.
 
Furthermore, stating that lawmakers passed this law solely to “score points” with us is absurd.
 
In fact, it is a far easier path of resistance to go along with the popular sentiment of “saving taxpayer money” that these editors and many critics of government are often quick to argue.
 
Instead, lawmakers who voted unanimously to pass the bill should be commended for standing up, being decisive and demonstrating their support of these employees.
 
Sadly, it seems the worst of corporate America’s strictly bottom-line policies have taken over the mindsets of many — and overlooked is the worker who is just trying to earn a decent wage and have a quality life.
 
Certainly, budget and spending is important to any business — including government — but let’s not forget about the people whose lives are directly affected.

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