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HGEA members win substantial hazard pay from the Hawaii Education Department

Photo: Getty Images
HGEA members win substantial hazard pay from the Hawaii Education Department

HONOLULU – In the union’s largest temporary hazard pay award to date, members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152 have won their long-standing arbitration against the state Department of Education. They secured payment for thousands of employees who risked their health and safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to the Jan. 23 arbitration ruling, many of the 7,800 employees of the state’s public school system will receive hazard pay at the highest rate. In many cases, it will amount to 25% of their base salary for the duration of Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation from March 4, 2020, to March 25, 2022.

“Those working in the DOE were some of the most exposed among public service employees,

putting their own health — as well as that of their loved ones — at substantial risk to keep services running in Hawaii’s schools,” said HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira. “The arbitrators in this case and others thus far have been unanimous: our members faced severe hazards over the course of the pandemic to sustain government operations, and they deserve compensation.”

Honolulu Civil Beat reported that the ruling could cost the state $150 million and put money in the pockets of school nurses, office employees, classroom educational assistants, and more. HGEA contracts call for hazard pay of 15% or 25%, and the COVID-19 pandemic marked the first time that hazard pay provisions applied to government workers across Hawaii, the outlet reported.

Public school teachers won’t receive the payments because Hawaii State Teachers Association contracts lack hazard pay provisions, according to the Civil Beat.

In October 2022, HGEA members prevailed against Maui County in a dispute over hazard pay for more than 1,300 workers. Members in that case have already been paid out by the county.

In October 2023, an arbitrator in HGEA’s case against Kauai County conceded that union members working there faced a hazard. A pending follow-up case will determine payout eligibility. HGEA has filed arbitrations in other jurisdictions, including in Hawaii County and against the state executive branch.

Founded in 1934, HGEA serves more than 37,000 state and county workers. The largest labor union in Hawaii, HGEA also serves a large number of retirees, other state and county employees and officials, and federal and private sector employees.

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