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Thursday, September 4, 2003



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KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
OTS management negotiator Perry Confalone spoke to the media after talks between OTS and the Teamsters broke off last night. They are scheduled to return to the table at 2 p.m. today.



Bus talks break off

A marathon session over
wages and pensions ends
with no progress being made


Talks between striking bus workers and management hit a "logjam" on wages last night, as the two sides ended more than 12 hours of meetings with no deal to end the 10-day-old strike.

Talks are scheduled to resume at 2 p.m. today.

"We'll continue to picket up until the time that the company decides to give us some dignity," said Teamsters Local 996 President Mel Kahele soon after the talks ended at about 10:30 p.m.

Kahele claimed that city officials and the Oahu Transit Services Inc., the private company that runs the city's bus system, are lying about having no money for pay raises.

"The city and OTS are keeping our passengers hostages," he said.

Perry Confalone, chief negotiator for OTS, countered by reiterating that "there is no money for that they're requesting."

"We do need to get labor costs under control," he said.

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KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
After talks broke off last night, Teamsters Local 996 leader Mel Kahele said OTS management was lying about having no money for pay raises.



Negotiators for OTS and Local 996, representing about 1,400 striking bus workers, resumed their talks at 10 a.m. yesterday in conference rooms at the Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

The two sides are trying to reach a deal on a three-year contract to end the bus strike that has inconvenienced tens of thousands of bus riders and commuters throughout Oahu. OTS has said that The Bus system handles 240,000 trips a day.

During a dinner break earlier in the evening, Confalone said the sides were down to two main issues. "The union has taken away a lot of their proposals, we've taken away most of our proposals and we're really down to wages and pensions. That really is a logjam."

Yesterday's meeting was the first since talks broke down last Thursday. Bus workers walked off the job on Aug. 26, demanding that management raise their pay and drop plans to cut service and lay off about 40 drivers.

Since then, Mayor Jeremy Harris and City Councilmembers have vowed to raise bus fares and fill a budget shortfall so that there will be no need for cuts and layoffs. However, they have emphasized that there is no room in the budget for raises.

Some union members at last night's negotiations said that OTS officials were claiming they did not have the authorization to fund raises or pension-contribution increases.

"The issue is not about funding. The issue is that they don't want to give no increase in pension and wages, and I'll leave it at that," said Kahele during the dinner break.

His remarks were in contrast to his optimism as he entered the negotiations.

"We don't believe the contract negotiations are gonna last that long," he said before the talks started in the morning. "We feel real positive, you know, that we're possibly looking at reaching an agreement today."

Kahele's optimism had apparently been buoyed by statements made by Mayor Jeremy Harris during an appearance on the morning news at KHON-TV earlier in the day.

Harris gave his assurance that there will be no layoffs of TheBus employees or service cutbacks for the three years of a new contract. The assurance seemingly leaves pay and pension increases as the only major issue remaining.

Kahele refused to say what proposals were offered last night.

Last Thursday, OTS and Teamsters rejected each other's pay proposals. According to Kahele, the union's proposal included no wage increase the first year and increases of 50 cents an hour for the second and third years. OTS officials said their proposal consisted of no wage increases for the first two years of the contract with a provision to reopen talks about a possible wage increase during the third year -- a proposal the union rejected.



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