UH Rescinds Return To Work Requirement

UHPA’s Negotiations Team has been working with UH over the recent weeks regarding policies concerning returning to work.   These discussions, now being lead by Vice President for Community Colleges (VPCC) Erika Lacro are beginning to yield fruitful results and good collaboration, most recently noted by UH President David Lassner announcing that “The previously announced requirement that all employees return to campus August 3 is rescinded and the COVID-19 Telework leave option will remain in place.”

Great Results Are Possible Through Genuine Collaboration

UHPA will continue working with UH in developing a non-COVID-19 telework policy that represents the best interests for all. Christian Fern, Executive Director of UHPA said, “When the pandemic first struck in the Spring of 2020 and there was an immediate shift to distance learning, UH and UHPA demonstrated that we can efficiently work together to resolve issues.  The collaboration resulted in over 17,000 degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded to students during the pandemic. It simply makes sense to continue in this tradition of collaboration with UH, lead by VPCC Erika Lacro, as we now shift to discussing return-to-campus policies that will have long-term positive effects upon the entire UH community”.

We’ll continue to update our members on this progress via our regular Monday Reports. 

UHPA Responds to Campus Reopening Plans

As UHPA continues to join with the UH administration to battle budgetary concerns created by the Senate, it is critical to ensure we remain in alignment with UH administration on other issues impacting faculty and students. It is imperative that we see eye-to-eye on the details of the campus reopening to move forward together. Clear communication and open dialogue are critical to avoid misunderstandings and missteps so we can effectively address bigger issues affecting public higher education in Hawaii.

We Successfully Worked Together at the Start of the Pandemic

When the pandemic and resulting lockdown occurred early last year, the University of Hawai‘i administration and faculty came together to determine how to deliver education in an online environment. Together, we were able to rapidly pivot to ensure there would be no interruption in the education of students and safely carry on research.

That experience showed the value of collaboration to create a positive experience for the UH administration, faculty, students and the community. 

Shouldn’t We Work Together to Plan the Reopenings Too?

Now nearly a year later, with the prospect of the University of Hawaii preparing to resume in-person learning on the campuses statewide, it would be prudent to approach the reopening with the same degree of meticulous detail to cover all the bases to ensure a successful reopening.

UHPA was Notified On 5/20 About the Reopenings

UH Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia sent a letter dated May 20, 2021 to University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) Executive Director Christian Fern announcing UH’s plans to transition to campus reopenings. The letter sent was subsequently transmitted to the UHPA Negotiations Committee.  

And it Was Brief On Details & Specifics

The perfunctory letter outlined little about the UH’s plan other than the tentative targeted dates, as noted below, to coincide with a full campus reopening in the fall 2021 semester:

  • By June 1, 2021: Remove all signage that campuses are closed to the public. Supervisors should start preparing for all buildings and offices to be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours by July 6, 2021. 
  • July 6, 2021: All UH buildings and offices will be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours. 
  • August 3, 2021: All employees are expected to report to their respective campus offices and resume normal business operations. The COVID-19 Voluntary Telework Policy will be rescinded as current COVID-19 conditions no longer warrant the need for employees to work from home.

We Have Concerns About the Lack of Details

The brevity of details and specifics were very concerning. Such vague reopening plans can lead to many different interpretations, expectations, outcomes, and directives without understanding the UH administration’s intent, purpose, and desired outcomes. To move forward together, we cannot afford ambiguity. Clarity, open communication and collaboration are critical. 

UHPA has Responded and is Looking Forward to Discussions

The UHPA Negotiations Committee wasted no time in sending back a response to the UH Administration on May 27, 2021 — a day before the requested deadline — with a list of questions and requests for information, while also expressing concerns and reservations about resuming normal operations on all campuses on August 3, 2021. 
UHPA has requested that the UH administration respond no later than June 7, 2021 to the list of questions and requests for information so that informative and meaningful discussions and dialogue can commence immediately.    

Latest on vaccination requirements at UH

COVID-19 Vaccinations Required for Faculty?

Vaccination required for students

On May 17, 2021, University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner publicly announced that it will add COVID-19 vaccination to its student health clearance requirements beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. The mandate for students means that to be on any UH campus, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless exempted for medical and religious reasons. The decision was based on recommendations from the American College Health Association and the University of Hawai‘i’s Health and Well-being Working Group to create a safer campus.

Only after full FDA approval

UH President Lassner said the vaccine requirement will take effect only after at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines (i.e. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson), currently authorized for emergency use, has been approved and fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA approval is expected by this summer.

Treated just like other health clearance requirements

Students will be able to request exemptions for medical or religious reasons, just as those allowed for other existing health clearance requirements such as TB, MMR, Tdap, Varicella, MCV (for first year students living in on-campus housing), and other strongly recommended vaccinations such as MenB, Polio, Hep A & B, and Human Papillomavirus.

What does this mean for faculty?

UH President Lassner notified UHPA and the two other unions that represent UH employees systemwide about his intention to also extend the mandate to faculty and staff. To date, President Lassner has not submitted any formal proposal to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty and staff.  Therefore, formal discussions with the UH administration have not yet begun.

UHPA’s public statement on faculty vaccinations

“We recognize the value of COVID-19 vaccinations and their positive impact for Hawaii residents. However, it is important that we move forward carefully to ensure we balance public health and safety with individual choice and an individual’s existing health condition,” said Christian Fern, UHPA Executive Director. “We have had a productive relationship with the UH administration throughout the pandemic, based on mutual trust and respect. This is yet another bridge to cross that we are confident we will be able to resolve together through joint decision making.”

Questions

UHPA recognizes that there will be many questions and concerns raised by faculty about the proposed mandate.  Questions such as who is eligible for exemptions; how will the mandate be managed and enforced; will there be consequences; what can be expected to make faculty feel secure; how will this be integrated into the collective bargaining process, etc.  If you have other relevant questions regarding the proposed COVID-19 vaccination requirement for faculty and staff, please email your questions to the UHPA Negotiations Committee via feedback@uhpa.org.  The UHPA Negotiations Committee plans to compile and categorize faculty questions and concerns in preparation for future discussions with the UH administration.

Editor’s Note on re-opening plans

UHPA is reviewing a letter received on May 20th from Jan Gouveia regarding reopening plans and will respond before the requested May 28th deadline.

When will UH Faculty receive COVID-19 vaccinations?

UHPA has received a number of inquiries from Unit 7 Faculty Members about the State of Hawaii’s plans on the COVID-19 vaccination roll out and when Unit 7 Faculty Members can expect to be able to register and obtain a vaccination if they choose.

Vaccine distribution is outside of our legal authority

The State of Hawaii, Department of Health, has been put in charge of the Statewide effort and is the sole authority in making decisions on priority and vaccine distribution.  Unfortunately, UHPA does not have any legal right to assert a role or authority on these matters since it is outside the realm of collective bargaining.

But we’re working on a plan with President Lassner

Nevertheless, UHPA has been in communications with UH President David Lassner and other UH Administrators in trying to obtain information on the Stateʻs plans for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccinations as it applies to University of Hawaii employees, including Faculty.  The response UHPA has received was that the UH Administration is currently working on a plan.  On Thursday Jan 14, President Lassner sent this email regarding their plans

Faculty might be considered “Frontline”

The presentation by the Department of Health (January 5, 2021) states that the State is in Phase 1b: Frontline Essential Workers includes “Teachers and childcare and educational support staff (childcare, preschool, early education, K-12, post-secondary).”  The presentation can be found in this recent Civil Beat Article.  

Oahu not clear on what deployment phase we are in

In a recent Hawaii News Now report dated January 12, 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) is now stating that the priority groups could now depend on where you live.  DOH is stating that the priority groups and pace of the vaccination effort will not be consistent across the State.  As an example, on the island of Kauai nearly 500 educators received a vaccination this past Monday.  However, on Oahu they are still working on vaccinating frontline caregivers and first responders.  On the Windward side of Oahu, Castle Adventist Health has now started Phase 1b and has been offering vaccination to residents age 75 and older and educators who live in areas with Windward Oahu zip codes.  The DOH further stated that “Movement through various phases of the vaccination plan will vary from island to island due to population differences, operational considerations and available resources.”  

We will keep you posted when new information comes in

There are other resources and information that is available to the general public that UHPA has been monitoring.  The DOH has a dedicated website on the COVID-19 vaccination plans and provides updated vaccine information.  As more information becomes available to UHPA that pertains specifically to vaccination of Unit 7 Faculty Members, we will be sure to share such information promptly.

Join a live conversation on UH’s coronavirus vaccination effort

On Friday 1/15, UH supplied the below information to UHPA and we are redistributing to assist participation efforts:

Vax Facts UH

Science, Safety & Society

Wednesday, January 20, 2021, 3:00 pm Hawai‘i Time

Please register and submit questions or comments HERE

During this special UH forum, state officials and specialists from JABSOM in vaccine development, clinical trials, and public health will provide up-to-date information on vaccine prioritization, logistics, efficacy, and safety. Find out how and when to get vaccinated, how to communicate accurate information to your students, and get answers to any other questions you might have. 

Our physician panelists include Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, JABSOM Associate Dean; Sandra Chang, JABSOM faculty and expert in vaccine development, and Lieutenant Governor Josh Green. 

Sponsors of this conversation include: Better Tomorrow Speaker Series, College of Social Sciences, UH Mānoa Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Kamehameha Schools, Office of the Provost, Office of Public Health Studies, William S. Richardson School of Law.

For more information, contact btss@hawaii.edu

State of Hawaii launches “AlohaSafe” COVID exposure notification app

From their website:

AlohaSafe Alert is a free, voluntary new service that helps slow the spread of COVID-19. It is the State of Hawaii’s official exposure notification app and has been developed in partnership with the Hawaii State Department of Health.

Voluntary

You control whether or not you receive notifications (you can opt-in/opt-out anytime). Notifications are only triggered if minimum thresholds of exposure are met.

Private

The app does not track your location. It anonymously keeps track of devices you’ve been in close contact with for the past 14 days. Google and Apple cannot see your identity, nor can anyone who receives an exposure alert should you test positive for COVID-19.

Free & Simple

Anyone can download the app to their smartphone at no charge.
The app is a safe way to alert you to potential exposure to COVID-19 and help stop the spread of the virus.

 

 

HomeStreet Bank provides resources for members struggling financially

Our partners at Homestreet just sent us an email the other day that we hope has utility for our members that need help during these trying times:

Seeing that Hawaii is experiencing high unemployment due to Covid-19, we thought you may like to have some resources available in the event you have members, or their family members, in need of financial help.

These services are offered at no cost to your members, they extend to family members and are offered by phone or on-line so they are easily and safely accessible.

As part of the Inside Edge Financial Wellness Program, there are participating partners and resources available to help members and their family members who may be dealing with debt issues

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.

Agreement reached over Covid-19 impacts on promotion, tenure and renewal.

Agreement reached with President and Governor over Covid-19 impacts on promotion, tenure and contract renewal 

Last week the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with President David Lassner and Governor David Ige on addressing the possible negative consequences and impacts the unanticipated switch to on-line instruction due to COVID-19 may have on tenure, promotion, and contract renewal.  

Agreement result of combined efforts

These concerns were raised by UHPA Faculty Members who are serving on Temporary Work Group which was a combined effort of the UHPA and UH Administrators to discuss health and safety issues, as well as making sure Faculty Members received the required support, services, resources, etc. to help with the transition to on-line instruction and other conditions as they have arised.  The Faculty Members recognized how adverse and negative the Spring 2020 semester could have in the areas of tenure, promotion, and contract renewal processes which are based on face-to-face evaluations, peer evaluations, student evaluations, application deadlines, research endeavors, and other related measures.  

Exemplary decision making via the collective bargaining process

“The Temporary Work Group epitomizes the intent of Hawaii’s collective bargaining law, by providing for joint decision-making; having employees granted a right to share in the decision-making process; and having a venue to exchange ideas and information with administrators to help the government become more effective and responsive in these unprecedented times.”  Christian Fern, UHPA Executive Director

Highlights of the MOU

  1. Faculty Members employed during the Spring 2020 semester may elect to extend their probationary period for an additional year, but not to exceed eight (8) years;
  2. Faculty Members expected to undergo contract renewal in the Fall 2020 semester may elect to extend their contact and postpone their contract renewal by one year; and
  3. Faculty Members or Lecturers holding multi-year limited term contracts in Spring 2020 who are up for contract renewal and who are not being paid via extramural funds will be extended for one (1) additional year.

The temporary work group consists of Faculty Members and UH Administrators and has continued to meet on a weekly basis since Spring Break.  

 

Farmers Insurance Hawaii reducing auto premiums in May

The below message was delivered to UHPA from Farmers Insurance Hawaii – we are publishing it with little to no editing as a courtesy to our members.

At Farmers Insurance Hawaii, we’ve been helping our Hawaii customers protect and prepare for the unexpected for 65 years. And during this challenging time, we continue our commitment to serve all our customers with aloha. 

In an effort to provide additional financial relief to our customers, Farmers Hawaii is providing a 15% reduction in May auto premiums. Customers will receive this monthly premium credit automatically and will not need to take any action. This is an expansion of our previously announced Farmers® Cares initiatives of a 25% premium reduction in April, offering additional flexible payment plans and pausing cancellations until May 22nd. 

If customers need additional assistance, please call the Farmers Hawaii Customer Care Team at 1-808-672-9569 during our operating hours (Monday – Friday 7AM-6PM HST & Saturday 7AM-2PM HST).

From everyone at Farmers Hawaii, we want to say mahalo for your business. 
We thank you for being a valued customer, and we are proud to serve you. Please stay safe and healthy!

As a reminder, Farmers Hawaii also provides the below online tools available for customers to help manage their auto insurance policy.

File Claims remotely – If you need to file a claim, you can do so online through www.farmershawaii.com or by calling 1-808-544-3999. 
24×7 online self-service for managing your accountwww.farmershawaii.com and our Mobile App equip you to handle many of your needs remotely. Should you need to access your ID card, review your policy documents, pay a bill or make policy changes you can do so using these self-service tools.
Other payment options:Over the phone:  1-888-437-3870  Mail in a payment via USPSVisit a MoneyGram counter at all Longs and WalMart locations in the state of Hawaii. There is a $1.99 fee for each transaction, and you must bring a valid I.D. and your policy number

Coronavirus-related assistance on mortgage or rent

Message from our benefits partner at HomeStreet Bank that may be of interest to those encountering challenges with rent or mortgage payments:

If you’re among those financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you might be concerned about how to pay your mortgage or rent. As a result of the CARES Act, Federal and state governments have announced plans to help struggling homeowners during this time.

Major mortgage relief options during the coronavirus pandemic:

Mortgage forbearance

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited period of time.  Forbearance doesn’t erase what you owe – you’ll have to repay any missed or reduced payments in the future – but it can protect your credit if you miss part or all of your payments during this period.

  • If you can’t pay your mortgage, or can only pay a portion, contact your mortgage servicer immediately
    • It may take a while to get your loan servicer on the phone due to the extremely high call volume they are receiving.
    • Have your account number handy.
    • You may need to explain why you’re unable to make your payment and provide details about your income, assets, and expenses
  • Once you’re able to secure forbearance or another mortgage relief option, ask your servicer to provide written documentation that confirms the details of the agreement.

NOTE:  If your mortgage is serviced by HomeStreet Bank and you have been impacted by COVID-19 and would like to request a payment forbearance or deferral, you may email loanservice@homestreet.com.  Please provide your full name, loan number, and a good contact phone number and they will reach out to you within 48 hours. You may also call 1-844-544-9071 to reach a dedicated Loan Counselor. Please be aware call volumes are high and hold times are longer than normal. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.   

Protections for renters

The CARES Act provides for a suspension or moratorium on evictions if your landlord has a federally backed mortgage or multi-family mortgage, and you cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent for 120 days beginning on March 27, 2020.  If the property you rent isn’t covered by the CARES Act, many states have suspended all evictions and foreclosures due to the pandemic.

Editor’s note:

This article was provided by HomeStreet Bank as a courtesy to UHPA members and has been published here with minimal, if any, editing- please contact them directly if you have any questions or comments.

UH Key to Hawaii’s economic recovery

Editor’s note: the below opinion piece by UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern appeared in the April 26, 2020 Honolulu Star Advertiser

Hawaii is caught between a rock and hard place. Our state constitution requires us to have a balanced budget, with a plan that shows anticipated revenue to cover projected expenditures. Although we’ve had budget deficits in the past, as a state we have generally been good about not spending more than what we generate.

Aggressive strategies worldwide to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been necessary, but it has come at a cost. State government officials project an estimated $1.5 billion drop in state tax revenue. It’s painfully clear difficult decisions must be made.

Although the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, this is not our first encounter with an economic downturn in our state. We can learn from our experiences from the Great Recession that started in 2009. Good decisions helped to position us for better recovery, but bad decisions continue to haunt us and we are still paying for those.

Now is the time to make prudent, collaborative decisions to accelerate our economic recovery and plan the future we want for Hawai‘i.

Yet, Gov. David Ige unilaterally proposed a 20% pay cut for public employees. To many in the public sector, the pay cuts seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction that lacked careful thought and input. To make this more palatable, he later offered to cut his own pay and that of his cabinet team members, and then back-pedaled by offering to “look at all options” to balance the budget.

Those words offered a glimmer of hope that he is not focused only on cutting public employees’ pay. 

 During the Great Recession, we saw a significant decline in visitors to Hawaii and reduced spending by those visitors. We also saw a substantial loss of jobs in tourism, transportation, construction, retail and service industries, with a significant rise in unemployment rates. We also saw wages decline.

In the midst of those dismal trends, there was a bright spot. We saw enrollment in the University of Hawai‘i increase by nearly 20% at the four-year campuses and nearly 30% at the community colleges. 

Counterintuitively, state general funds to support the UH dropped by about 30% per student during that time. The budget cuts forced the university to raise tuition rates, placing a burden on families already struggling to send their kids to college.  We should not make the same mistake this time around and instead invest in Hawaii’s people appropriately. The University system must be ready and supported to offer relevant, quality training to its residents to restart the economy. A hiring freeze or staff reductions would only increase class sizes or cut entire classes.

Universities generally have countercyclical experiences during downturns in contrast to other sectors of the economy. Enrollment soars during downturns because while many are looking for a job, they return to the UH to learn new skills to become more job-ready and attractive candidates to employers. Faculty played a key role in preparing the workforce for the state’s recovery efforts in 2009, and need to continue to be on the frontlines to support our local economy. If Hawai‘i is to reduce its dependency on tourism, education through the UH is key to creating new opportunities for economic diversification and resilience. 

Academic research led by UH faculty is another economic engine for the state that is often overlooked. The expertise and reputation of the faculty are able to attract millions of dollars in funding for research, which also creates jobs for graduate students and support staff. 

When we receive the green light to venture out of our homes again, we know the world will be different from when we left it just about a month ago. We’ll need to be ready to hit the ground running. We cannot afford to make hasty decisions that create more harm than good, now and for our future.