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Hawaiian Telcom union OKs strike

By Alan Yonan

LAST UPDATED: 4:27 p.m. HST, Oct 31, 2011

Union workers at Hawaiian Telcom, the state's largest telephone company, have voted to authorize a strike that could begin as soon as Wednesday.

The union members voted 513 to 85 to authorize the strike and turn down the latest contract offer from the company.

Officials from IBEW Local 1357 said workers could strike at any time but have been told to report for work on Tuesday.

The vote comes just a week before Hawaii hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting of world leaders. The APEC summit begins on Nov. 7. The weeklong conference is expected to bring about 20,000 people to Honolulu and will culminate Nov. 12-13 when President Barack Obama hosts the leaders of the other 20 APEC nations, including China, Russia and Japan.

Hawaiian Telcom said last week it has plans in place to ensure that service is not interrupted during the APEC summit.

Union leaders had urged members to vote against the contract because of its numerous "take-aways," including reductions in overtime and sick leave, freezing of the traditional pension plan and increases in medical costs, said Scot Long, business manager for IBEW local 1357.

The unionized workers include field technicians, line workers and call center representatives. Their original contract expired Aug. 12, but the two sides agreed to a series of one-week extensions as contract talks continued.

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