Governor confirms furloughs on hold

On Friday Jan 18, 2021, UHPA received the attached PDF and we’ve excerpted the key message from the State’s Chief Negotiator Ryker Wada:

On December 29, 2020, Governor Ige sent a message to the entire Executive Branch
notifying employees that due to the $900 Billion federal COVID-19 relief bill, there was
enough direct support to programs in the State of Hawaii so that furloughs would be
delayed for Executive Branch employees until at least July 1, 2021.

I understand that President Lassner sent a similar message to the University employees on the same day.

This message confirms that Governor Ige intends to delay furloughs until at least July 1, 2021.


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

New Legislative Protocols

The State Legislature has instituted new protocols for the 2021 Legislative Session.  Starting with their offices are officially closed to the public.  All meetings, hearings, floor sessions will be conducted virtually.

All House and Senate Hearings can be easily located on our webpage, UHPA At The Legislature,  Hearings on Demand.  These hearings are broadcast via YouTube and show previously held hearings.

The Legislative calendar has been modified by one week, reducing recess days from thirteen to nine.

For full details of new protocols click on the link above.

Regent Jan Sullivan Attacks Academic Freedom

Academic Tenure is Essential to Preserving Academic Freedom

Freezing Tenure? Faculty Must Keep Their Guard Up in Contract Negotiations

With the current contract between the University of Hawai‘i and the UHPA Faculty coming to a close at the end of June 2021, negotiations for a successor agreement are continuing. During this economically challenging time, we should brace ourselves for difficult negotiations, with Employer proposals that seek to threaten the very core of academic life.

The UH Board of Regents meeting held on Thursday, Jan. 7, may be an indication of what’s in store for the future — unless UHPA Faculty members remain vigilant and take proactive measures to intervene.

In a discussion of the actions UH has undertaken to address the state’s budget deficit, University of Hawai‘i Regent Jan Naoe Sullivan said “freezing tenure” should be considered. She told UH President David Lassner that she believes the collective bargaining agreement has been a hindrance in the past and that the current economic climate presented an opportunity to introduce the concept of suspension of tenure that she proclaimed other universities have followed. (Sullivan has brought up similar challenges to the concept of tenure several years back, but that proposal was justifiably shot down.)

A Brazen Attack – Biting The Hand That Powers Your Company

This ongoing, brazen attack on the fundamental principle of academic life was being live streamed statewide and immediately set off a flurry of text and email messages among UH Faculty. Some Faculty were aghast that Sullivan, chief operating officer of Oceanit — which relies heavily on the UH for research to further her company’s business interests — apparently does not understand, recognize nor appreciate the value of a university system. We can only speculate why Sullivan seems hell-bent on insisting tenure be frozen before her term as a Regent ends this year and Gov. David Ige appoints a successor to her seat.

A Lone Voice

Fortunately, there were strong indications Sullivan was once again a lone voice, an outlier among the Board of Regents on this issue. UH BOR Chair Ben Kudo, attempting to appeal to her legal mind, delicately reasoned with her that tenure can only be questioned if a faculty member commits acts that violate the law or contract. Lassner suavely appeared to acquiesce, pointing out tenure suspensions have only been applied at small, private colleges, but also disturbingly suggested perhaps a “targeted” approach to tenure suspensions at the UH. The other Regents remained noticeably silent, perhaps because they understand, recognize, and appreciate the value of tenure and did not wish to embarrass her or themselves.

Let’s work with, not against each other

We hope these kinds of theatrics in the public eye do not represent the sentiment of the entire Board of Regents. Drama like this has no place in negotiations at a time when the state’s dire situation requires all us to work together — rather than against each other. These ill-conceived notions breed distrust and suspicion. They become distractions to moving us forward to meaningful and respectful discussions. We can and must do better when each of us at the table shares the same goals and aspirations for the University of Hawai‘i and appreciates how much higher education and research contribute to our community and our State.



Image credit:

DRAWING OF PEOPLE WHO CUT DOWN THE BRANCH ON WHICH THEY SIT is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Image has been resized or cropped from original along with minor text changes.

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.


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.


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.



Collective Bargaining Standing Report going forward

This will be the default collective bargaining and retirement incentive plan update unless otherwise published

To reduce unnecessary traffic and redundancy of information from UHPA, you can assume that this report will be the same every week and therefore UHPA will only be publishing news and updates that are substantively different from the following weekly status items: 

  • Mid-term bargaining is on hold until further notice.
  • Governor Ige intends to delay furloughs until at least July 1, 2021.
  • Negotiations over a successor UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement will continue until January 31, 2021 before the statutory impasse date of February 1, 2021.  
  • The UHPA Negotiations Committee and the Employer continues to meet every Monday.
    • We cannot share details about any negotiation specifics.
  • Retirement incentives:  UHPA 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 continue to remain hopeful that the Employer revisits this matter for further review and consideration.  

If there are any changes to the above or other items of interest, they will be published and sent out on the Monday report email newsletter.

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.”