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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hotel strike vote scheduled

By Dan Nakaso and Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writers

Workers at four Sheraton hotels in Waikiki and the Hilton Hawaiian Village will vote on Aug. 23 whether to give union negotiators the ability to call for a strike during on-going contract negotiations.

Representatives of the hotels and UNITE HERE! Local 5, the union representing 2,500 workers at the Sheraton and 1,600 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, met Monday and Tuesday and are scheduled to resume talks next week.

Union members are scheduled to vote at the Neal Blaisdell Center on whether to authorize a strike.

"If we get stuck, then we can call a strike," said Eric Gill, Local 5's financial secretary-treasurer. "We will continue to bargain, but it puts additional pressure on the bargaining."

After a union meeting yesterday at the Blaisdell Center, Lee Ann Trent, an 18-year veteran at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, said, "After being in the negotiations, I can say that the companies are stalling. They're not taking us seriously. So we're authorizing to take a strike vote."

Gary Seibert, area vice president and managing director of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, said hotel negotiators have proposed raises of 3.25 percent per year for each year of a proposed four-year contract, employer-paid contributions for health, dental, vision and prescription drug benefits, and "the funding necessary to support recently increased pension benefits for current and future retirees."

"These proposals were presented shortly before the contract expired, yet to this very day the union has refused to respond, even while its members work without a contract," Seibert said in a statement. "... No one in Hawai'i will win in a strike not hotel employees, not the hotel and certainly not Hawai'i's economy."

David Uchiyama, a spokesman for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawai'i, said Sheraton management and Local 5 negotiators have reached tentative agreements on many items "and the focus right now is on the economic issues."

"We feel that the momentum is still headed in the right direction," Uchiyama said. "I'm optimistic that we're going to be moving forward because both sides have really worked hard to get to this point."

Labor contracts covering more than 5,500 employees at eight Waikiki hotels expired June 30, although talks have been ongoing.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com and Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.