Hawaiian Electric Co. says it has sent $50 gift cards and letters of apology to "a few thousand" customers who went without power following the March 4 winter storm complicated by an electrical workers strike.
More than 8,000 HECO customers, the majority of them in the Ewa plain, lost electricity for several days when utility poles and lines were downed by gusty winds and rain during the storm.
"We don’t want to get into specifics, but we can say the gift cards and letters were sent to a few thousand customers," said Darren Pai, HECO spokesman.
Pai said HECO used its records to determine who would get the letters and the gift cards based on how long the customer was without power.
Sending out gift cards and letters to affected customers is not standard procedure, but HECO decided to do it in this case due to the prolonged nature of the outage and the fact that the customers were further inconvenienced by downed utility poles blocking the highway, Pai said.
"Some of our customers experienced especially long outages under unique and unusual circumstances during the period starting March 4. In many cases these outages were compounded by heavy traffic. We recognize how difficult this was for our customers. We told them we know the gift cards do not make up for the disruption, but they are a small thank-you for their patience and understanding," said Pai.
The American Express gift cards were paid for out of shareholder funds, Pai said. Customer funds were not used.
Pai said the letter makes it clear that customers can still file claims for any losses they feel deserve compensation.
On the day of the power failure, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 went out on strike as negotiations on a new contract stalled. The strike slowed work on restoring power.
The IBEW represents about 1,280 workers — roughly 54 percent of the company’s employees — at HECO on Oahu, at Maui Electric Co. and at Hawaii Electric Light Co. on Hawaii island. The union and management reached a tentative agreement March 7. Workers ratified the contract a few days later, and it will be in effect through Oct. 31, 2013.
Customers can call HECO at 543-4624 to request a claim form for losses during the outage. Information is also at heco.com; click on "Residential Services," then the "Power Interruptions" link on the left.