June 1 – The strike could have statewide implications for all gas users, from residents to the military to businesses.
More than 200 unionized Hawaii Gas employees across the state have gone on strike against the utility because contract negotiations failed to reach an agreement.
The strike began at 12:01 a.m. today at seven locations in Hawaii, including three on Oahu, according to Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers, Local 996.
The union and the utility, but union president Kevin Holu said the union has been unsuccessfully trying to contact Hawaii Gas since May 11. Hawaii Gas said it made a final offer on May 30, but it was not suitable for the union.
“We tried to get them back to the table several times, but they didn’t want to until we started the strike,” Holu said this morning. “Yesterday they reached out to try to come to an agreement. I’m willing to come to an agreement and come back to the table and give our members what they rightfully deserve: fair wages and fair medical (costs). Our members, for what they are offering, they’re paying to go back to work because of the medical costs.
About 60 employees were at the Hawaii Gas location on Kamakee Street this morning for the walkout. Some waved signs at the building entrances, but others could be seen at the intersection of Kamakee Street and Kapiolani Boulevard.
Unionized employees include white-collar workers, drivers, and “technical and distribution” workers. Many of the employees at the Kamakee Street location maintain and service pipes and other equipment, said shop steward Ka’ai Conradt.
“We repair the leaks, we do all the maintenance of residential, commercial meters…, underground pipes,” he said. “In the middle of the night, if there’s a leak, it’s our guys from this place who go out and fix it.”
The strike could have statewide implications for all gas users, from residents to the military to businesses.
There have been concerns that Hawaii’s visitor industry, which relies on cooking gas, house cleaning services and hotel generators, could be affected by the strike.
The Hawaii Gas plant at Campbell Industrial Park cannot run for long without workers before services are affected, according to the union.
“The SNG (synthetic natural gas) plant itself can only run for 10 hours without personnel. If the pressure drops too much, gas from Kapolei to Hawaii Kai will be cut off,” said Kingsley Lei, the Hawaii Teamsters’ lead contract negotiator. .
On Wednesday, Hawaii Gas told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that it “has contingency plans to reduce the impact on customers” in the event of a strike.
Conradt said the strike was largely supported by union staff, with 161 votes in favor and seven votes against.
“It is time to defend our rights. We are here every day putting in all these hours, sacrificing our bodies for the company,” Conradt said.
Hawaii Gas says it is the state’s only franchised gas utility and its largest propane distribution business.