Hawaiian Air, union reach agreement
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
Hawaiian Airlines and its largest union have reached an agreement that allows the airline to outsource jobs as long as present employees are guaranteed a job.
The deal, reached last month and approved by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 141, is "a ground-breaking agreement that should really set an example for other companies and shows how broad-minded Hawaiian and the IAM are," Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner said.
The agreement, for now, seems to have resolved the contentious dual issues of automation and outsourcing that have become prevalent in the airline industry, said Randy Kauhane, the IAM's assistant general chairman. It was approved by "an overwhelming majority" of the IAM members who voted on the agreement, Kauhane said.
It covers so-called back-office employees in Hawaiian's Koapaka Street headquarters who work in the airline's reservation call center, schedule planning, information technology, crew scheduling, accounting and purchasing departments.
The IAM represents nearly 1,500 Hawaiian employees, but exactly who might be affected by possible outsourcing or automation remains unknown, Kauhane said.
"We don't know the exact number, but we do know their jobs are protected," Kauhane said. "We wanted to be assured that people wouldn't be forced outside Honolulu or outside the state of Hawai'i. That was one of the key issues."
Hawaiian officials have no specific plans to outsource or automate jobs, Wagner said, but "we wanted the ability to pursue outsourcing as a means of reducing our costs. We're considering it as an alternative to what's happening at a lot of other airlines, where they've been drastically cutting their costs through layoffs and pay cuts."
Hawaiian officials approached the IAM about the issue two months ago, Kauhane said.
"Outsourcing — that's been the buzzword in the industry," Kauhane said. "My real concern is automation, not moving an operation to the Mainland or to another country. You call up any of the legacy carriers, and what happens? You get a machine. We not only protected our employees against outsourcing, but (also) the automation of union jobs."
Veteran Hawaiian employees have been through two bankruptcies, a series of employee givebacks, and multiple management and ownership changes. They understand the issues and the pressures on the airline industry, Kauhane said.
"After everything they've been through, they didn't want to be told now that their jobs are being outsourced and there are no more jobs available," Kauhane said. "As work disappears, the issue becomes: How do we protect these members?"
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.