On January 21, 2015, the HAWSCT issued an opinion (for two consolidated appeals) in State of Hawaii, et al. v. Dayton Nakanelua, SCWC-30444, authored by Chief Justice Recktenwald, holding that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board has exclusive jurisdiction to resolve a dispute between a governmental entity and a union over the selection of an arbitrator to resolve impasses in collective bargaining.
The underlying case involved a dispute between the State, other governmental entities and United Public Workers union to renew a collective bargaining agreement. The parties could not reach an agreement, and where, therefore, required by statute to go to arbitration, but could not agree on a neutral arbitrator. The Hawaii Labor Relations Board held that each side committee prohibited practices based on the failure to select an arbitrator.
The circuit court denied UPW’s motion to compel arbitration, concluding that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the arbitration dispute because it involved prohibited practices, and affirmed the Hawaii Labor Relations Board’s prohibited practices decision. The ICA affirmed. On cert, the HAWSCT agreed, but based on different reasoning.
According to the HAWSCT, the ICA correctly held that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to resolve the arbitration dispute because it involved prohibited practices. The HAWSCT further clarified that UPW’s reliance on HRS Chapter 658A (the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act) does not apply to collective bargaining disputes like the one between UPW and the governmental entities since the RUAA only apply to situations where the parties voluntarily agree to arbitration. Here, HRS Chapter 89-11 (governing arbitration of collective bargaining agreements) provides a strict statutory mandate for arbitration and specifically gives the Hawaii Labor Relations Board oversight authority. According to the HAWSCT, because Chapter 89-11 represents statutorily mandated arbitration, arbitration between UPW and the governmental entities was not “voluntarily.”
The HAWSCT’s full unanimous opinion is available here.