Friday, July 22, 2005

Hertz workers voting
on ‘final’ offer to avert strike

About 250 Hertz Rent A Car employees started casting ballots yesterday on whether to accept a "last and final" offer aimed at averting a strike, with a compromise on wages and medical that union officials said should keep workers on the job.

Company officials gave Teamsters negotiators the offer late Wednesday night, and a vote could take several days. The package, which Local 996 President Mel Kahele described as "very good," includes a $1.20 hourly wage increase over three years.

Also, the company agreed to continue paying 100 percent of employees' medical coverage and pledged to create a task force made up of management and union members to address concerns of mandatory overtime.

Unionized Hertz employees were allowed to strike as early as 12:01 p.m. yesterday and had planned to set up picket lines at Hertz counters across the state, including Honolulu Airport.

But the strike was postponed, Kahele said, until members got a chance to vote on the "last and final" offer. He said it could take several days for the votes to be cast and counted.

Just two days ago the Teamsters and Hertz seemed far apart, and a strike appeared likely, with medical, overtime and wages remaining formidable sticking points. About 6 p.m. Wednesday, Kahele said he was doubtful that any movement could be made before the strike deadline was reached.

But hours later Hertz submitted its "last and final" offer, giving union officials hope that an agreement was still possible.

Hertz's regional manager, in Honolulu for the negotiations, could not be reached for comment.

Local 996 gave its 48-hour strike notice for unionized Hertz employees Tuesday. Since then, negotiations between the union and company have been conducted separately, with a federal mediator shuttling between Teamsters headquarters in Kalihi and Hertz's corporate offices downtown.

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