The economic recession resulting from the global pandemic continues to batter Hawaii. A state largely reliant on tourism, visits effectively ground to a halt. Stay at home orders and mandatory two week quarantines make the prospect of a Hawaii vacation grim. The downturn translates into lost tax revenue for the state. In response, Governor David Ige proposed pay cuts to public employee salaries to reduce cost and mitigate the lost tax dollars.
Unions expressed outrage. The Hawaii State Teachers Association spoke out against the pay cuts. While the governor believe such cuts help avoid further economic collapse, the HSTA believes they could worsen it. “We believe cutting salaries for tens of thousands of state workers is rash and will hurt our state even more,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.
In a letter written to the governor, the union, which represents 14,000 teachers, also addressed the lack of clarity regarding the nature of the cuts. Whether they comes as across the board cuts or furloughs remains uncertain.
Pay Cuts Could Impact Front Line Workers
In addition to the 20 percent reduction, Governor Ige also proposed a 10 percent cut to some bargaining groups presently engaged on the front lines of the pandemic. Nurses and prison staff are subject to the additional cuts.
The Hawaii Government Employee Association pushed back against the suggestion of the cuts. Its executive director, Randy Perreira, penned a letter expressing the organization’s issues with the pay cuts.
“Many of our members who continue to get paid during this quarantine are struggling due to the layoffs or reduced hours of their spouses or significant others,” he wrote. The letter goes on to explain many of the impacted workers subject to the cuts presently work to provide vital public health services.
All this, without adequate personal protective equipment, Perreira notes.
During a news conference Tuesday, Ige remained unclear on the issue of furloughs versus salary cuts. However, he told the public his administration is looking at all possible options to reduce spending.
At present, about a third of the state’s workforce applied for unemployement.