POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2012
About 500 former employees of Del Monte Fresh Produce Hawaii can expect additional severance pay due to a recent state Supreme Court decision upholding an unfair labor practices ruling five years after the company shut down.
The local unit of Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. failed to bargain in good faith over impacts of its closure, according to a 2007 Hawaii Labor Relations Board decision that awarded employees an extra $700,000 in severance.
Del Monte appealed the board's decision to Hawaii's Intermediate Court of Appeals, arguing that the board's chairman, Brian Nakamura, displayed an appearance of impropriety during the hearing. The appellate court upheld the board's ruling, but Del Monte appealed again to the state's highest court.
During the appeals, the severance award remained unpaid.
The Hawaii Supreme Court decision about two weeks ago means those workers should be paid shares of the award roughly averaging $1,400 per worker by the end of the year, according to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, which represented workers in the case.
Del Monte announced in February 2006 it was going to close its Kunia plantation at the end of 2008. But the company accelerated the timetable and in November 2006 said it would cease all operations in January 2007.
The company paid several million dollars in severance in 2007 under terms of a collective bargaining agreement. But the union sought to negotiate additional severance benefits, including medical benefit extensions, due to the abrupt closing.
Much of the case had to do with whether Del Monte was open to negotiating additional monetary benefits or whether corporate decisions had already been made not to agree to any additional monetary benefits.
A Del Monte representative could not be reached Thursday for comment on the court ruling.