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labor COVID Hazard Pay for HPD Officers Deemed Warranted, but Details Remain Unclear

Honolulu police officers who worked during the pandemic are entitled to hazard pay, according to an arbitrator.

Honolulu police officers who worked during the pandemic are entitled to hazard pay, according to an arbitrator.

But just how much they’re entitled to has not yet been determined.

Approximately 1,500 HPD officers have applied for hazard pay after the arbitrator’s decision in May. The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers originally filed for the pandemic benefit collectively, representing officers up to the rank of lieutenant. But that’s now changed.

Nicholas Schlapak, SHOPO’s Honolulu chapter chair, said the arbitrator wanted the union to encourage members to file on an individual basis — meaning each case is separate.

That’s a burden for SHOPO, the officers and especially the city.

“The Human Resources Department, the safety specialist will actually have to go through each individual application in order to see whether or not it fits any merit,” Schlapak said.

He hopes the city will instead work toward a settlement with SHOPO to streamline the process.

In a statement, a city spokesman declined our request for an interview “citing ongoing negotiations and arbitration proceedings with multiple unions related to hazard pay” during the pandemic.

Among the unions negotiating with the city are the United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Administration.

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HGEA already won an arbitration decision for Maui County workers last year.

In that case, 1,300 workers received up to a 25% pay raise if they were on the job during the Governor’s emergency orders, between March 2020 and March 2022.

All have now received the extra paycheck.

Randy Perreira, HGEA’s executive director, said more recent arbitration decisions have also come down in favor of hazard pay for workers in the state Department of Education and Kauai County.

There are still details being worked out in those decisions, but Perreira said it shows the arbitrators believe hazard pay is warranted on many levels.

“In all instances, the arbitrator has ruled that COVID was in fact a hazard,” Perreira said, adding negotiations with government leaders could resolve the issues quickly.

“Frankly, at this point, the employers just got to get over it and quit fighting the inevitable,” he said.

Perreira said the unions all seem willing to negotiate and are aware taxpayers have to foot the bill.

“We understand that,” said Perreira.

“The public expected the government to keep running during shutdowns and as a result, some of our members got infected on the job,” he said some of those workers died from the illness.

SHOPO said it will still take months before Honolulu police officers see any hazard pay money, or even know how much they’re entitled to receive.