Teachers union files complaint against Ige, DOE

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has filed against the state a prohibitive practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

The complaint names Gov. David Ige, state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and the state Department of Education as respondents.

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The union says in the filing that the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases and the widespread transmission of the virus creates an “unsafe and hazardous condition which imminently endangers the health and safety” of members who are required to report to their schools and work sites, and could cause death or serious physical harm to those who do.

Among other points, the complaint also contends that the decision to require teachers to report to work next week with an unknown number of students violates the union contract and endangers members, students and their families.

The HSTA is seeking a declaratory ruling from the board stating that the DOE’s plans violate safety laws and endanger the health and safety of its members. The union also is asking for an injunction to prevent the state from violating those laws.

The HSTA also plans to file a grievance next week because of alleged violations to the union contract and memorandum of understanding reached with the state in June.

HSTA spokesman Keoki Kerr said in an email the state committed to language in the memorandum of understanding that in-person instruction would resume in conjunction with written guidance from the state Department of Health.

The union has requested written guidance detailing when schools are safe to open for in-person learning, when they should close, or when they should reopen after a closure.

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However, Kerr said that despite repeated requests, the DOH has not provided such written guidance and has been unable to support the contact tracing process for campuses with positive COVID-19 cases in a timely manner.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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