Unionized Hawaii Gas employees were ready to strike today after weeks of negotiations that failed to reach a contract agreement.
Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers, Local 996, which represents 217 members across the state, said in a letter shared with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that a strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. today and continue until an agreement is reached. . At press time on Wednesday night, it was unclear if the two sides were still talking.
“This has been a long time coming as we have made concessions in the past to help the company and we just want what we deserve,” the letter signed by union president Kevin Holu said. “As difficult as a strike is for everyone, we cannot allow corporate greed to become the new normal in an already hard-to-survive economy. Unfortunately, as it stands, the expense falls on the employees and at a cost that severely reduces their current profits.”
Holu said the company “refuses to negotiate in good faith changes to medical benefits, retirement benefits and living wages.”
In a separate statement to the Star-Advertiser, Holu said Hawaii Gas made a “last, best, last offer” that was not satisfactory to the union.
“Unfortunately, to say that is far from being fair and reasonable for its workers,” Holu said. “The last thing anyone wants to do is go on strike. But Hawaii Gas has given us no recourse but to deal with corporate greed.”
In a statement to the newspaper, Hawaii Gas CEO and President Alicia Moy said the company and the union have been negotiating a new contract for five weeks and took note of the union’s final offer.
The company was also preparing Wednesday for a possible strike.
“We sent an updated offer on May 30 and we are waiting for a response. We are focused on offering a competitive salary and benefits package to attract and retain our skilled workforce,” Moy said. “We have plans to ensure that a potential work stoppage is not detrimental to our customers. If we reach an impasse, we are open to mediation and have an open dialogue to find a solution that works for everyone.”
Regarding the potential impacts to customers, Hawaii Gas said in an email to Star-Advertiser that it “has contingency plans to reduce the impact to customers and is confident that we will be able to maintain basic service for residential and business customers. Contingency plans involve the deployment of alternate personnel and resources to maintain operations at the best possible level under the circumstances. Emergency situations will continue to be handled as a priority.”
Hawaii Gas says it is the state’s only franchised gas utility and its largest propane distribution business.
For updates on this story, go to staradvertiser.com.