Unionized employees of Hawaii Gas went on strike today following weeks of negotiations that failed to lead to a contract deal.
Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers, Local 996, which represents 217 members across the state, said in a letter that the strike would continue until an agreement between both parties is reached.
“This has been long coming, as we have made concessions in the past to help the company and merely want what we deserve,” said the letter, signed by union President Kevin Holu. “As difficult as a strike is for everyone, we cannot let corporate greed become the new normal in an already hard-to-survive economy. Unfortunately, as it stands the expense falls on the employees and at a cost that severely lessens their current earnings.”
Holu said the company “refuses to negotiate in good faith bargaining regarding changes in medical benefits, retirement benefits, and living wages.”
In a separate statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Wednesday, Holu said Hawaii Gas made a “last, best and final offer” that was unsatisfactory to the union.
“Sadly, to say, it’s a long way from being fair and reasonable for their workers,” Holu said. “The last thing anyone wants to do is go on strike. But Hawaii Gas has given us no other recourse but to stand up to corporate greed.”
In a statement to the newspaper, Hawaii Gas CEO and President Alicia Moy said the company and the union have been negotiating a new contract for five weeks and noted the final offer to the union.
The company also is preparing for a possible strike.
“We sent an updated offer on May 30 and are awaiting response. We are focused on offering a competitive wage and benefits package to attract and retain our skilled workforce,” Moy said in a statement. “We have plans in place to ensure a potential work stoppage will not be disruptive to our customers. If we do reach an impasse, we are open to mediation and keeping an open dialogue to find a solution that works for all.”
Regarding possible impacts to customers, Hawaii Gas said in an email Wednesday that it “has contingency plans in place to reduce the impact to customers and is confident that we will be able to maintain basic service to residential and commercial customers. Contingency plans involve the deployment of alternative personnel and resources to maintain operations at the best possible level under the circumstances. Emergency situations will continue to be handled as a priority.”
Hawaii Gas says it is the state’s only franchised gas utility and its largest propane distribution business.