Ilikai Hotel workers belonging to Unite Here Local 5 walked off the job Thursday to protest high workloads, low wages and stagnant contract negotiations.
The action, involving about 40 workers, precedes a Wednesday bargaining session, the first slated to be held in over a year. Negotiations between Local 5 and the hotel, which is owned by iStar Inc. and operated by HMS, began nearly two years ago when the union contract expired.
Local 5 spokeswoman Paolo Rodelas said the union represents 63 Ilikai workers. Rodelas said the one-day strike shows workers are serious about obtaining a fair contract from HMS, which the union believes is a subsidiary of Aqua-Aston Hospitality.
Ilikai General Manager Wes Kawakami issued a statement saying that Aqua-Aston Hospitality LLC “was not, and is not, a party to any collective bargaining agreement at the Ilikai,” which he said is managed by HMS.
The names of the bargaining parties are just one of the sticking points. Ilikai workers want a $3.51-per-hour pay hike to align with Hilton Hawaiian Village union workers, who get paid about $22.14 hourly. They also want workloads adjusted, especially for housekeepers who work overtime to meet cleaning quotas.
“We have 12 rooms to clean daily,” said Ilikai housekeeper Anna Viscarra, who has worked there two years. “If it gets busy or someone gets sick, we can do 18 to 20 rooms each. They are large rooms with kitchens; some of them have multiple bathrooms.”
Kawakami said HMS manages a rental program for 227 condominium units, owned by private owners that should not be required to match union wages paid by institutional owners.
“A more precise comparison would be to consider the wages paid by other rental agents or owners who offer short-term rentals through VRBO or Airbnb,” Kawakami said.
Kawakami said HMS still awaits the union’s response to its 2016 proposal and is “disappointed” that talks have stalled.
Rodelas said HMS agreed to provide the union with a better proposal in August, but so far, it has not been forthcoming.
“That’s one of the reasons why we had 100 percent participation from everyone scheduled to work today,” she said. “Strikes are unusual.”
Rodelas said Local 5 hasn’t had a major hotel strike since 2011, when Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa workers walked off the job for about a week. Nonunion workers at Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel held a one-hour strike in 2015 to demand a fair organizing process, she said.
Rodelas said contentious labor disputes should be avoided because they interfere with hotel operations and increase hostility between management and workers.
Ilikai guest Dana Nguyen, a repeat visitor from Washington, said she was startled when the union began chanting at 6:30 a.m. She said it was unprofessional that the union didn’t notify the hotel of a strike and that the hotel responded by limiting services, including room cleaning.
“Actions like this hurt the hotel,” Nguyen said. “I’m going to find peace at the Hilton, where we will probably stay next time — if we even come back.”
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