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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 14, 2006

Employers seek out Del Monte workers

Advertiser Staff

A job fair for workers displaced by the shutdown of Del Monte Fresh Produce's Kunia pineapple operations was deemed a success yesterday when almost 90 employers signed up to interview and take applications from 551 employees being let go.

Companies ranged from Aloha Airlines to Oahu Transit Services to Zippy's. Among the positions available to the workers are airline ramp agents, welders, kitchen helpers, cashiers and security guards.

The job fair was organized by the state Department of Labor, which estimated at least a couple hundred of the employees attended the job fair on Del Monte's property yesterday morning and that more came in the afternoon.

Department of Labor spokes-man James Hardway said some of the 551 being let go didn't show up because they are expected to retire, find jobs elsewhere or seek employment after their last paycheck in January.

The job fair was organized in response to Del Monte's surprise shutdown of its century-old Hawai'i pineapple operations six days before Thanksgiving. At that time the company pledged to pay employees through Jan. 22 and cited lower production and pineapple prices in its decision to shutter the operation.

Nelson Befitel, state Department of Labor director, said he was happy about the amount of outreach by other employers wanting to hire the workers. The number of companies wanting workers outstripped the amount of space available at Del Monte's facilities yesterday, with 56 taking applications and doing interviews.

The state was able to hand out information on 33 other companies that were seeking employees.

Still to be resolved is what will happen with plantation homes at Kunia Camp, where about 125 families lived on land that Del Monte leased. The state, land owner Campbell Estate and others are working to come up with a solution.