County of Kauai’s Workweek Schedule Rectified After Being Implemented Without Consultation
September 07, 2020
In a case that became contentious over the last few months, the issue of a modified workweek schedule affecting about 400 County of Kauai employees has now been rectified, with a majority of County workers reverting back to their five-day, eight-hour schedule and the rest continuing the four-day, 10-hour schedule that was implemented from May to July 2020.
“Members who opted to remain on the 5-8 work schedules as well as those who preferred to work a modified 4-10 schedule have expressed satisfaction with their schedules,” said Kaulana Finn, HGEA’s Kauai island division chief. “The Mayor and his administration should have negotiated then in the same fashion that they ended up doing now, which was to allow those who wished to remain on the 5-8 schedule to do so, and those who preferred to work the modified 4-10 schedule to be able to work that schedule as well.”
“I appreciate that HGEA was there to gather member feedback and ensure I could continue working the 5-8 schedule,” said Shantelle Rego (Unit 13), Recycling Specialist, County of Kauai Solid Waste Division. “I have a lot of sports events for my children and family activities so this schedule was more accommodating, and I could focus on that instead of having to take vacation time.”
“I am grateful that HGEA worked with the employer to help support my request to work the modified 4-10 schedule,” said Kelly Agena (Unit 13), Information Technology Specialist, County of Kauai Department of Finance. “The extra day off each week gives me a chance to spend more quality time with my son.”
Since Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami ended the four-day, 10-hour work schedule on July 27 and returned to a five-day, eight-hour work schedule, approximately 100 County employees to date have requested to remain on the 4-10 schedule. HGEA and the County of Kauai agreed on the language for the Letter of Understanding, which was signed by each of these employees and is effective through June 30, 2021.
But before this current agreement was worked out between Kauai County and HGEA, many members were upset in late April when Kawakami unilaterally implemented a temporary but mandatory four-day, 10-hour week from May 4, 2020 until July 27, 2020. Affected employees in county offices suddenly had their schedules shifted to Monday through Thursday, 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with offices that served the public closed on Friday. The County did not honor its duty to negotiate with HGEA.
HGEA could not agree to a mandatory, across-the board 4-10 work schedule. We acknowledged that some employees were willing to work the 4-10 schedule, and we were not opposed to allowing these employees to voluntarily modify their hours to a 4-10 schedule. However, a majority of the affected members opposed the 4-10 proposal and voiced serious concerns of personal and economic hardship — such as family and childcare obligations, a second and third job — if forced to work a 4-10 schedule. To obtain an exemption, these members had to put in a written request with the County’s Department of Human Resources.
Due to the failure to negotiate, on May 1, 2020, the union filed a Prohibited Practice Complaint against Mayor Kawakami with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) over the County’s unilateral implementation of a 4-10 work schedule, maintaining that this work schedule change violated Chapter 89 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes and collective bargaining agreements, and that it is a negotiable matter requiring mutual agreement before implementation. An HLRB hearing on HGEA’s Prohibited Practice Complaint was conducted in July and August.
Collective bargaining not suspended
One of the key sticking points in the dispute with the County was whether or not Hawaii’s collective bargaining law had been suspended when Governor Ige issued emergency proclamations relating to COVID-19. On July 20, 2020, the HLRB issued an oral ruling in HGEA’s favor stating that HRS Chapter 89 (Collective Bargaining) was not suspended as Mayor Kawakami maintained. Prior to HLRB’s decision, Kawakami issued an advisory stating that the 4-10 work schedule his administration mandated and unilaterally imposed in May will end on July 27, 2020.
Commenting on the ruling, HGEA Advocacy Chief Stacy Moniz said, “We’re pleased with the confirmation by HLRB of what we have maintained that HRS Chapter 89 was not suspended in its entirety by the Governor. We also believe that this decision supports our position that the County cannot unilaterally change work weeks without first consulting and negotiating with HGEA. We’re not against the idea of modifying work schedules to protect employee health and safety, but we're strongly opposed to the way the administration refused to bargain and unilaterally implemented the change on all county workers. This ruling enforces the fact that the County is still bound by Chapter 89 and they need to honor our members' respective contracts even during a pandemic.”
On a separate note, HGEA filed a class grievance pursuing overtime compensation for all affected employees who worked more than their contractual eight-hour shifts during the imposed 4-10 work schedule from May 4 to July 27, 2020. The County denied the class grievance, and the case is currently on track to proceed to arbitration.