While furlough days are meant to cut employees salaries and save money, for the past three years furloughs were beneficial to some city employees.
In the city and county of Honolulu's refuse division, the city has been paying overtime to employees who cover furloughed workers shifts when it could have paid straight time to those employees if it avoided furloughs altogether.
"They knowingly did this, that we would have to pay overtime to other staff members to pickup the slack," says Lori Kahikina, director of Environmental Services.
Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration agreed with the state and the UPW to the furloughs of city workers. And while we're told this reduced the city's overall labor costs, the city admits it knew that it would not save money in the refuse division.
"They knew in advanced that the division of refuse, we can't not pick up the trash. Everyone else in the city had two days of furlough, the division of refuse had one," says Kahikina.
The city currently employs 88 refuse collection operators, 30 crew leaders, and 72 refuse collectors. A total of 190 employees and 2,104 furlough days per year. That's the amount of shifts the city had to cover in a year.
"It's just the reality of it that refuse, the trash needs to be picked up because it's a health and safety issue," says Kahikina.
When asked why the city went ahead with furloughs of refuse workers even though it knew it would not save money, the city says this was an issue of being fair to the thousands of other furloughed city employees.
City furloughs ended on June 30. Mayor Caldwell is glad it's over. And hopes new policy will lower Honolulu's refuse division overtime costs.
"We're watching this very closely. We want to get a better handle and control of overtime," says Mayor Caldwell.
"There should be some kind of drop in the overtime for this division," says Kahikina.