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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Hotel talks go past key date

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

The month of May is adding urgency to negotiations between eight major Waikiki hotels and their 5,500 unionized workers.

Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 5 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill, left, attended a rally yesterday at Kawaiha'o Church. The union is in talks with eight major hotels, which employ 5,500 unionized workers.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

As of today, hotel owners and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 5 are both able to cancel their current contracts with 48 hours' notice. The contracts expired in February and have been extended while the sides negotiate, with the union pushing for more job security and increased benefits as tourism recovers from the post-Sept. 11 shock.

Negotiating with Local 5 are Hilton Hawaiian Village, the four Sheraton properties in Waikiki, the Renaissance Ilikai, the Ala Moana Hotel and the Hyatt.

Owners are seeking to contain labor costs and preserve some of the savings created by post-Sept. 11 staffing cutbacks.

The union, however, wants to restore staffing levels and work hours to pre-Sept. 11 levels, and says the hotels are using the disaster as an excuse to cut workers.

The union also wants hotels to stop subcontracting with non-union companies; increase wages and benefits; and get the hotel to agree to a four-year contract ending in 2006.

Although several months of negotiations have produced few results, neither side is expected to cancel the contract, said Eric Gill, secretary-treasurer of Local 5.

"There's been little movement so far, but it's still early, too early to say the direction things will go," said Gill, whose AFL-CIO affiliated union is presenting a uniform contract proposal to each of the eight hotels.

To support their cause, hotel workers held a rally yesterday afternoon at Kawaiaha'o Church in downtown Honolulu.

The contracts cover about half of Local 5's 11,000 Hawai'i members. Union officials said the results of negotiations will set the tone for contract talks with other unionized hotels.