Tuesday, September 9, 2003

At the Blaisdell Center, Mel Kahele, Teamsters Local 996 president, talked with Perry Confalone, OTS chief negotiator, in a private meeting next to the main negotiation room. In the middle was Ron Kozuma, Teamsters Local 996 secretary-treasurer.

Bus talks break off
with no wage deal

The islandwide bus strike entered its third week today after contract talks ended late last night with the two sides still apart on wages.

Officials from Teamsters Local 996, the union representing 1,336 striking bus workers, gave a proposal to Oahu Transit Services Inc., the company that runs TheBus for the city.

Perry Confalone, chief negotiator for OTS, said the company will make a counteroffer today and if the two sides want to discuss the proposals, they will schedule a meeting for today.

Yesterday's negotiations were the first since Thursday night.

While the management and union teams stayed in separate rooms for most of the negotiations, there were several informal meetings in a side conference room between key negotiators to "hash out some details," according to one OTS official.

The group included Confalone, Teamsters Local 996 President Mel Kahele, Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ron Kozuma and federal mediator Carol Catanzariti.

The full negotiating teams had their first face-to-face meeting of the day about 11 p.m. but broke up with no deal at about 11:20 p.m.

Before negotiations started at 2 p.m., union officials hinted it would be a long night.

"We plan on staying until the wee hours of the night if need be to reach an agreement," said Mike Chambrella, a union attorney. "We're very, very hopeful that we can get the strikers off the road and back on the buses."

But the impasse on wages and pension remained.

The union's has proposed a wage freeze for the first year of the contract and a 50 cent-an-hour wage increase and a 50 cent-an-hour pension increase for the second and third year.

OTS's proposal calls for either an 18- to 20-month wage freeze, or a 30-month freeze with a clause to reopen negotiations on wages and pensions.

In both proposals, OTS negotiators want to hold off on any pay raises for about two years.

"To me that's a viable solution," said Confalone earlier in the day. "In two years, people can come back to the bargaining table. ... It's better really to wait till the third year -- hopefully when times are a bit better -- and you can negotiate more effectively that way."

Yesterday marked the 14th day of the work stoppage since the strike deadline expired after midnight Aug. 26.


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