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COVID-19 Testing Mandate for UH Faculty?

Caught by Surprise

When Gov. David Ige announced his emergency proclamation last Thursday, August 5, it caught many by surprise, including the public-sector unions. We had not seen the emergency proclamation until it was publicly posted after his press conference. We learned about the Governor’s intentions for the first time along with everyone else. There was no advance courtesy notification, even though the emergency proclamation affects all University of Hawaii faculty and all state and county employees. 

Productive Discussions with UH Administration Underway

Since the unions did not have the benefit of discussions with the Governor prior to him issuing his emergency proclamation, there has naturally been considerable confusion. The unions have been left on their own to figure out how to implement the requirements. Fortunately, the UH administration reached out to UHPA and productive discussions have begun. 

Issuing ambiguous proclamations is not hard; the devil is always in the details. Fortunately, the UH administration is working with UHPA to do the substantive, heavy lifting.

COVID-19 Testing Mandate

Based on UHPA’s preliminary analysis of the emergency proclamation, the Governor is imposing a COVID-19 testing mandate for UH faculty, effective August 16, 2021. To avoid the requirement for frequent, mandatory testing—as often as once a week—UH faculty have the option of being fully vaccinated. According to the emergency proclamation, these tests will be free. There is no need to prove medical or religious exemptions; the testing mandate applies to all those who are not vaccinated, regardless of their personal reason for not being vaccinated.

Disciplinary Action and Grievance Procedures

There are still many outstanding questions and concerns that need to be addressed. The emergency proclamation states the requirements “shall be enforceable through disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” UHPA believes the Governor’s exercise of his emergency management powers does not override or negate the 2021-2023 Unit 7 Agreement, including but not limited to, the disciplinary, grievance, and arbitration procedures as codified in the faculty contract. We are still in the process of confirming this understanding, More to come on this.

As UHPA’s discussions with the UH administration progress, we will keep you apprised.