Abercrombie blasts strike as "unacceptable and avoidable"
POSTED: 8:39 a.m. HST, Mar 6, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:15 p.m. HST, Mar 6, 2011
Power has been restored this morning to all but an estimated 500 Hawaiian Electric Co. customers scattered across Oahu, HECO officials announced as they met today with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260.
As of 3:30 a.m., electric service was restored to more than 2,000 customers in the Ewa Beach area who had been mostly without power since Friday, HECO said.
Service to approximately 950 customers in the Kaneohe/Kahuluu area also has been restored.
Up to 500 customers remain out of power — from a single home to a cluster of homes — around Oahu, HECO said.
After unionized HECO employees went on strike during the height of the power outage on Friday, negotiators for both the utility company and the union met this morning with a federal mediator at the IBEW's headquarters in Moiliili.
They broke for lunch around 12:15 p.m. today and planned to resume talks this afternoon.
HECO restored service overnight using management crews.
"Our management crews wanted to stay until the job was done because our customers had been without power for so long," said Lynne Unemori, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate relations. "These crews expressed gratitude to many people who thanked them for their work by honking, flashing lights and in one in case, delivering hot coffee to the work site."
However, six utility poles remain down along Old Fort Weaver Road but HECO said no customers should be without power. A portion of Old Fort Weaver Road remains blocked.
Management crews and contractors are also replacing utility 15 poles on Fort Weaver Road and three utility poles on Fort Barrette road that were knocked down during severe weather early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Gov. Neil Abercrombie postponed a plan to open assistance centers on Oahu for residents without power during a strike by workers of the Hawaiian Electric Co. after power was largely restored today.
Abercrombie said he directed state Civil Defense and other state agencies to provide more targeted relief to Oahu residents still without power and criticized the strike as "unacceptable and avoidable."
"We have been monitoring and assisting in this situation since it began on Friday afternoon with our highest priority to ensure public health and safety," Abercrombie said in a statement. "I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who worked to restore power, but let me be clear, this situation was unacceptable and avoidable. It cannot happen again."
He blasted both sides for the strike by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 that began at the height of a power outage that left thousands without power. The strike delayed repairs, and about 500 HECO customers scattered around Oahu still remained without power this morning.
Abercrombie urged both sides to immediately resolve the dispute.
"Two private entities cannot hold the public interest hostage," Abercrombie said. "Neither the public nor I will tolerate delays or punitive tactics by either side."
He continued: "The way to solve our problems is listening to each other with respect and working toward common goals."