By Rosemarie Bernardo
and Russ Lynch
A HAWAII HOTEL WORKERS UNION official is threatening a strike before some 3,000 people arrive for the Asian Development Bank conference that starts May 7.
Tony Rutledge, a member of the negotiation committee for Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, said yesterday that the union will make that a main point in negotiations with the Hawaii Council of Hotels.
"It's time to settle," said Rutledge.
More than 1,000 Local 5 members from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Ihilani, Hyatt Regency and the Ilikai marched along Kalakaua Avenue yesterday afternoon, protesting the lack of a contract with some of Waikiki's largest hotels.
Eric Gill, another member of the union's negotiating committee, shouted through a bullhorn, "What do we want?"
The crowed exclaimed in unison, "Contract."
Many marchers held signs protesting hotel subcontracting of private companies.
Nearly 5,000 Local 5 members have been working on an extended contract for more than a year since the last one expired March 1, 2000. That master contract covers workers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and the Sheraton Hotels.
Robert Katz, a Honolulu attorney and top negotiator for the Hawaii Council of Hotels, representing management, could not be reached for comment.
Local 5 officials say the march from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park was also intended to bring public attention to other upcoming hotel contracts. Those contracts expire over the next few months.
Sherri Chiesa, international union trustee, said, "We're just asking for a decent fair package, and they (Hawaii Council) have not put that forward."
The union's proposal is a 5 percent increase across-the-board over a three-year period. The negotiation committee also wants improved pension benefits.
Bernie Caalim-Polanzi, spokeswoman for the Hilton Hotels, was unable to comment on the provisions of the negotiations, but said, "We would like to see both parties to come to an agreement."
Fran Kauwe, a 26-year waitress of the Surf Room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, said: "Cost of living keeps going in the islands. We need to be able to take care of our families and have a decent wage."
Negotiations will take place tomorrow at a 2 p.m. meeting between the Hawaii Council and union members in the Ewa Ballroom at Hyatt Regency.
Negotiations will continue Friday at 2 p.m.
The location of Friday's meeting is pending.