Listen to The Conversation between UH and UHPA

UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern & Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno spoke with Catherine Cruz from Hawaii Public Radio

On Dec 29, Catherine Cruz of Hawaii Public Radio invited UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern and UH Provost Michael Bruno on “The Conversation” for a one-hour discussion, “UH Administration Talks Labor Contracts, Federal Aid Ahead of 2021.”

The discussion is worth a listen and covers topics such as:

  • Reorganization efforts at UH Manoa
  • How UH positively impacts Hawaii’s economic landscape
  • Impact of furloughs on the UH community

UHPA responds to media inquiry about our lawsuit

Some members of the media inquired whether UHPA’s lawsuit would be changed as a result of the announcement by the Governor to delay or defer the furloughs.

The following response from our Executive Director Christian Fern provided the rationale for the lawsuit:

“Since April of this year, Gov. Ige has continued to send mixed messages to public-sector unions about furloughs. The on-again, off-again messages have been unsettling. This has created a considerable amount of confusion among UHPA members. Today [12/23/20] we saw yet another example of poor communication. UHPA was not informed of the Governor’s plan to delay the furloughs. We learned about this with everyone else when he announced it this afternoon. Based upon the Governorʻs statement, the University administration informed faculty members late this afternoon that furloughs are delayed, but that ‘itʻs a fluid situation.’ We had been working on this lawsuit since Dec. 9, when he announced he would unilaterally mandate the furloughs. Without any details, this has created an ongoing atmosphere of uncertainty about what the governor may be planning. We had to move forward with filing our lawsuit to protect the interests of UHPA members.”

UHPA news from week ending 12/28

Bargaining Update

Mid-term bargaining and proposed furloughs

Refer to 12/23/20 UHPA Article “UHPA Sues Gov. Ige For Mandating Furloughs.”

Successor Bargaining

Negotiations for a successor UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement continues with another meeting scheduled for Monday, December 28, 2020. 

Retirement Incentive

There are no new updates or additional information on this matter. 

Budget Update

The Governor rolled out the State Budget this week (University of Hawai‘i). There is a HOLD on the budget due to the Congressional passage of the Appropriation Bill.  Contained in the bill is a COVID Relief Package.  Senator Schatz’s office sent us this message:

There’s $22.7 billion nationally for colleges and universities under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in the COVID relief package. That money can be used to: “defray expenses associated with coronavirus 23 (including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff  trainings, and payroll).” 

The next step is for the President of the United States to sign the Bill into law!

Reference Links

UHPA Sues Gov. Ige For Mandating Furloughs

The University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA), the union that represents about 3.500 faculty members across all 10 campuses of the University of Hawai‘i system, is taking legal action to block the governor’s plan to implement furloughs and a 9.23% reduction in pay.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court today against Gov. David Ige, State Comptroller Curt Otaguro, and University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner, seeks a declaratory and prospective injunctive relief from the furloughs going into effect Jan. 1, 2021, as mandated by the governor.

“Over the past several months, we have repeatedly pointed out that furloughs are unconstitutional and a violation of our existing contract, which remains in force until June 30, 2021,” said Christian Fern, UHPA’s executive director. “Since we have not had the benefit of a discussion to explore alternative solutions to the state’s budget deficit with the governor and his administration, we are resorting to legal action to challenge the governor’s legal right to override our contract terms, including his justification to use emergency proclamations to issue his edict on furloughs.”

UHPA has a successful track record of prevailing in similar situations violating employment contracts. In 1998, UHPA sued Gov. Ben Cayetano when the State enacted a law to change pay dates that were protected by an existing UHPA contract. The federal courts, both locally and on appeal at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, agreed with UHPA. This prevented the law from being implemented and did not affect UH faculty for the duration of the contract.

“We are keenly aware of the congressional relief package earmarked for higher education and we hope this will avoid the need for furloughs during the remainder of the contract,” Fern said. “However, the governor has not shared how he plans to allocate these stimulus funds. Rather than wait and hope he will do the right thing, we feel compelled to take decisive action in the midst of the uncertainty created by the governor by filing this complaint.”

Free “Credit Card Makeover” webinar for UHPA members

As a member of UHPA you have access to free webinars through your Inside Edge benefits from HomeStreet Bank. Start the year off right with useful and timely info such as Credit Card Makeover: Getting out of Debt and Solving the Mystery of Credit Reports.

In addition to the free webinar(s), there are also links to a collection of free financial guidance and services.


Not a member yet? Join now via this instant membership online form.. Are you already a member but can’t access the content? Click here to troubleshoot or just call our office.

UHPA news from week ending 12/21

Bargaining Update

Successor Bargaining

Negotiations for a successor UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement continues with another meeting scheduled for Monday, December 21, 2020.  Check our website for latest updates.

Retirement Incentive

UHPA has still not received a formal response from the State’s Chief Negotiator Ryker Wada, Governor David Ige, and the State’s Attorney General over the draft MOU.  We continue to remain hopeful that the Employer revisits this matter for further review and consideration.  Any future updates on this topic will be announced via our Monday report.  You may also browse previous Monday reports to get a historical sense of how this topic has fared. 

Budget Update

  • Governor Ige’s budget has been rescheduled for release on Monday, December 21, 2020.
  • The UH Board of Regents has not scheduled a meeting for December, 2020.


UHPA news from week ending 12/14

Bargaining Update

Mid-Term Bargaining and Proposed Furloughs

Please review “UHPA Stands Up Against Governor Ige’s Overreach” published and emailed on 12/11 at about 4:15pm. 

Successor Bargaining

Irrespective of the situation UHPA is facing with the Employer in mid-term bargaining, negotiations for a successor UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement continues.  Another meeting is scheduled for this Monday, December 14, 2020.  As noted previously, the UHPA Negotiations Committee and the Employer are now fully engaged in discussing and deliberating over the various proposals.  Please visit the website for the latest information on this developing matter.

Retirement Incentive

While UHPA still has not received a formal response from the State’s Chief Negotiator Ryker Wada, Governor David Ige, and the State’s Attorney General over the draft MOU, we understand that the Employer may be revisiting the matter for further review and consideration.  While we have not received an official word of its outright rejection, we remain hopeful and optimistic in that the Employer may consider offering a type of retirement incentive.   Please visit the website for the latest information on this developing matter.

Reference Links

UHPA Stands Up Against Governor Ige’s Overreach

We are now heading into our tenth month of dealing with the health, safety, and economic effects COVD-19 has had on our state. It has been a difficult experience. It has upended and traumatically affected everyone. The pandemic has presented both health and economic crises that no one has been able to escape. The new virus has compelled us to think in new ways. We have all had to remain flexible and adaptable and open to new ideas as we venture outside the proverbial box.

During these unprecedented times, we need to rely on our government and our elected officials to help us navigate through this situation and eventually provide the pathway for recovery.  We recognize that Governor David Ige has broad powers to protect the health and safety of our citizens, especially during emergencies like COVID-19, but ordering overreaching and arbitrary decisions that have nothing to do with public safety will only exacerbate our situation and make our recovery much more difficult.

The Battle Begins: The Fight Against Furloughs is just the Beginning

There is no doubt that for Hawai‘i to return to a sense of normalcy, we must all do our part, including UH faculty. However, this will not be achieved by resorting to old ways that have proven to fail. That is why UHPA is strongly opposed to the failed past concepts of furloughs and is doing everything in its power to stop Gov. Ige’s ill-timed plan.

At the heart of this dispute lies our future and rights protected and guaranteed by the Hawaii State Constitutional under Article XIII, Section 2, which affords public employees the right to engage in collective bargaining. Gov. Ige’s unilateral implementation of furloughs imposed on Faculty members disregards and violates our current and active collective bargaining agreement that he agreed to for the duration of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2021. 

Allowing such an overreach of political power would open the possibilities for Gov. Ige or any future Governor to unilaterally make possible changes to the Employees’ Retirement System protected under Article XVI, Section 2., assume power and control over the University of Hawai‘i under Article X, Section 6 through diminishing the authority of the Board of Regents, and possibly impact even our Bill of Rights under Article I. The negative consequences of allowing such overreach during emergencies by elected officials are endless and alarming.

UHPA recognizes that there will be difficult times ahead and hard decisions will need to be made, but the law requires the employer to obtain mutual consent from the union regarding wages, hours, working conditions, EUTF contributions, and other topics. Hawaii’s collective bargaining law requires engagement of its employees and mutual consent on mandatory subjects of bargaining such as furloughs, pay cuts, and retrenchment. Ultimately, UHPA membership must vote on these terms through ratification.

UHPA cannot and will not compromise our membership’s constitutional and statutory rights to decide their own personal fate and will not leave it up to Gov. Ige or any other elected official to decide for them.

Flashbacks from the Past

During Gov. Ige’s press conference announcing the furloughs, he said he consulted with Hawai‘i’s past governors, including Gov. Linda Lingle. That raised a red flag and rankled many in the community. Under her leadership, she initiated “Furlough Fridays,” which impacted Hawai‘i’s keiki and their parents. Her furlough plan also curtailed essential services that stalled our state’s recovery efforts during the Great Recession. Many valuable programs were decimated back in 2009, but the effects of those decisions are still being felt today, nearly a decade later.

As some may recall, under the Lingle administration, furloughs were just the beginning of her attempt to downsize government. In a punitive fashion, layoffs and budget cuts soon followed. Gov. Ige seems to be following the same playbook, already alluding to the need to look at layoffs.  We should forget the naïve notion that UH faculty should be willing to do our part by rolling over and accepting furloughs as the solution to our state’s budget challenges.  In addition, neither Gov. Ige nor the UH has ever figured out how to impose a furlough plan on Faculty without it just becoming a straight pay cut due to how unique the work Faculty members perform.

Do the Math

According to Gov. Ige, our state is projected to have a $1.4 billion shortfall over each of the next four years. Gov. Ige stated that the furloughs would contribute $300 million each year to be used to pay back a $750 million dollar loan for money he borrowed.  Gov Ige plans to keep the furloughs on-going for the next four (4) years which will eventually make public employees contribute an additional $450 million during this time frame.

Secondly, it’s obvious furloughs alone will not fix the problem. What will be next? The worst is yet to come and the battle is just beginning. Furloughs open the door to more edicts that violate our rights protected by the collective bargaining process and our state constitution. As history has shown, give governors an inch, and they will take a mile —wielding their emergency powers as they see fit.

Collaboration is Key

Taking legal action against the governor is not our preference; however, UHPA as well as the other public-sector unions need to stop his furlough plans based on the reasons cited above. We believe it’s time for everyone to work together and think strategically to move forward.

Throughout the pandemic, the need to collaborate and get through this together has emerged as the new mantra. Unfortunately, we don’t see Gov. Ige leading by example. Instead of developing innovative solutions, we instead see Gov. Ige reverting back to past actions that have been proven to fail.

Governor created chaos and confusion with furlough roll-out (joint statement)

One day after Gov. David Ige announced plans to furlough tens of thousands of employees in his state workforce, details are emerging showing the so-called plan actually isn’t one.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) have learned that each state department director has been given a very short window to determine which employees to furlough and/or if an exemption should be sought with no guidance or parameters. Union leaders are hearing reports of confusion among top department heads about how they are supposed to roll out the furloughs. Additionally union leaders have been told that each department may be directed to implement furloughs independently from the other departments.

It’s downright scary that these are the people who are leading the economic recovery and essential services that affect the health and functioning of our state. The Ige administration should halt this ridiculous plan now before more damage is done to the workers, public services and Hawaii’s economy.

Yesterday, Ige announced in his news conference that 24/7 operations, first responders and public safety employees would be exempt from furloughs. He also exempted federally funded positions and departments that generate their own revenue such as the Hawaii Department of Transportation (Airports, Highways and Harbors Divisions) and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Many state departments either receive federal funds or generate revenue which may make them eligible to opt their employees out of the furlough.

In another contradiction to his public statement on furloughs, state sheriffs and conservation resource officers are NOT on the furlough exemption list even though they are first responders and have law enforcement powers.

While Ige said Wednesday Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto would release furlough plans for educators, Kishimoto emailed a message to all Department of Education employees the same day that said, in part, “The governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining is the lead on these active negotiations; therefore, we do not have details of the specific impact to HIDOE employees at this time.”

All four unions have valid contracts in place and none of the unions have agreed to furloughs.

Announcing a drastic nearly 10% pay cut to workers though a furlough will hobble a key pillar of Hawaii’s economic engine—government workers—when economic recovery is so critical.

HGEA, HSTA, UPW, and UHPA collectively call on the governor to halt this ill-timed, poorly planned furlough implementation and to respect the contracts of tens of thousands of his dedicated employees.

A Bad Time for Furloughs

Aloha Faculty members:

This afternoon, Gov. David Ige announced his plan to unilaterally implement furloughs for state employees, beginning Jan. 1, 2021.  

UHPA is currently under a collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2021, and has not agreed to the furlough plans presented by Gov. Ige. 


UHPA strongly denounces this plan, joining the other public-sector unions to make it clear there will be an adverse impact to our local economy, as forewarned by the University of Hawai‘i Economic Organization (UHERO).  

UHPA, the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and the United Public Workers (UPW) jointly issued a statement to the media explaining our position that has been published on our website.

Furloughs are Counterproductive

At a time when access to faculty and classes are most critical, furloughs are counterproductive. Last month, UH-Mānoa reported having the largest number of incoming freshmen for the fall 2019 semester in almost 40 years. The flagship Manoa campus welcomed 2,184 first-time freshman class — the largest class since 1981, boosting overall enrollment by 3.1% to 18,025 students.

Increase in Overall Student Enrollment

Overall, there was a small 0.8% decrease in overall student count across all 10 Hawaii campuses this past fall, but this was a much smaller decrease compared to other universities.  Nationally, university enrollment dropped 3% and by 1.4% for public four-year universities, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Some community colleges also experienced enrollment increases: Kauai Community College showed a 6.4% increase and UH West O‘ahu also had a 3% increase in enrollment this past fall.  According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, community college enrollment overall declined by 3.2% this past fall semester over last year, but this was much less than the 9.4% drop for public two-year institutions nationwide.

UH: A Viable Choice for More Private High School Graduates

As a result of the pandemic, the role of the UH has become even more important for local families dealing with the challenges of the pandemic. Just under a third — 28.5% — of private school graduates in Hawaii enrolled at UH this past fall. There was a 20% increase in private high school graduates who chose to remain at home and attend the UH this past fall compared to a year ago. 

Other Key Highlights: 

  • Enrollment by Native Hawaiian students reached a record high since reporting started in 2005. Students of Hawaiian ancestry now make up a quarter —  25.6% — of total enrollment.
  • The proportion of students who are the first in their families to attend college also rose this year to 22.3%, the highest figure since that information started being tracked in 2015.
  • Despite the pandemic, faculty were able to rapidly pivot to new ways of safely delivering instruction without disruption. As a result, six of UH’s seven community colleges saw increases in graduation success rates, and five of seven saw increases in on-time graduation. UH-Mānoa’s on-time graduation rate has improved every year since 2006 and now stands at a record-high.

There is too much at stake to implement furloughs at a time like this. The UH is an economic engine in our state and plays a key role in workforce development. We must continue the momentum and build our road to economic recovery, not tear it down before it even starts. We must create a resilient economy and avoid the social costs of furloughs. We believe our state deserves better and we look forward to more discussions with the Governor to explore other solutions to the state budget shortfall.