HSTA files class grievances over unsafe school conditions, testing mandate
The formal complaints call on state to properly bargain, offer free testing for staff
News Release from HSTA, September 7, 2021
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) continues to push back on the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) about the issue of school safety, COVID-19 testing mandates, and the need to negotiate these changes in working conditions. HIDOE has thus far refused to formally engage in the bargaining process, preferring only to sit informally over these issues.
As COVID-19 continues to spread with community transmission continuing to remain high on all islands, the working conditions for our bargaining unit members have been greatly impacted, including the forcing of members to telework and/or provide simultaneous instruction without a negotiated agreement and inconsistently implementing the HIDOE’s own health and safety guidelines.
Additionally, while HSTA has continued to advocate that all who can get vaccinated from COVID-19 should do so, there are still issues that remain with the way that the HIDOE is implementing the governor’s Aug. 5 emergency proclamation (Section III, p. 5) related to mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for those who remain unvaccinated.
HSTA details two class grievances filed late Friday
Late Friday afternoon, HSTA filed two class grievances over unsafe working conditions during the pandemic and the state’s directive that unvaccinated education employees must be tested for COVID-19 weekly. Class grievances represent all teachers who have been wronged by action or inaction on the part of the employer.
View our grievance over unsafe and changing working conditions
View our grievance over the state’s COVID-19 testing mandate and impact bargaining
“The increase of positive COVID-19 cases and employer’s failure to consistently implement health and safety guidelines have created an unsafe working environment for HSTA’s members,” HSTA said in its unsafe working condition grievance.
“The employer has required thousands of staff and students to quarantine which in turn has required employees to engage in telework while on leave, increased their working hours to implement blended instructional delivery (simultaneous instruction), and caused other substantive changes in the working conditions of Bargaining Unit 05 employees,” the grievance said.
“The employer is violating the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to negotiate the impact of the changing working conditions,” the grievance added. The grievance points out the state has violated 13 articles of HSTA’s contract, including teaching conditions and hours, teacher protection, as well as assignments and transfers.
The grievance about COVID-19 testing says the Hawaii State Department of Education “directed all employees to be tested every week for COVID-19 or provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by August 30, 2021, without impact bargaining over the implementation of this new directive. As a result of this new directive, employees who are unvaccinated have been required to undergo a medical examination to show that they are negative for COVID-19 at their own expense.”
The testing grievance charges HIDOE with violating 12 articles of HSTA’s collective bargaining agreement, including non-discrimination, association rights, and leaves.
Both grievances seek to require the employer to properly consult and meaningfully bargain with the union prior to the implementation of any directive, policy or mandate.
The COVID-19 testing grievance seeks additional remedies, including providing weekly COVID-19 tests for school employees for free and restoring employee compensation or leave lost or out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of the HIDOE’s testing mandate. HSTA maintains that provisions for the department to cover any time and expense for department-directed medical examinations are already addressed in the HIDOE’s School Code Regulation #5100 and Procedure #5100.2 (p. 39 and 43 of 547).
Mahalo to those who have helped by speaking out against the HIDOE and their practices as of late including signing our open letter. In addition to the filing of formal grievances, we look to our members to respond to calls this month to provide written and oral testimony to the Board of Education for their meeting on Sept. 16 and to participate in informational picketing which is being planned by each chapter for the weeks to come.
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