Mediator credited in cement negotiations
Employee presence also helped, a cement company official says
Hawaiian Cement's vice president credits a federal mediator with pushing talks forward and helping to avert a strike early yesterday of more than 20 cement workers, which could have dramatically slowed construction statewide.
"The presence of the federal mediator was a contributing factor," said Michael Coad, who led Hawaiian Cement's negotiations with Teamsters Local 996. "And attendance of the session involved employees. The employee presence was also a significant factor."
Here are some highlights of the tentative, five-year contract settlement between Hawaiian Cement and Teamsters Local 996:
» Workers will pay 20 percent medical co-payment.
» In exchange, they will get an $8,840 raise over five years.
» In the first year, their salary will increase by $1.20 an hour. They will get an 80-cent raise in the second year and a 75-cent raise in the third, fourth and fifth years.
» The contract covers 20 workers.
» Currently, the cement workers get $24 to $28 an hour.
Source: Hawaiian Cement
Federal mediator Ken Kawamoto, who also helped hammer out a deal in 2004 between striking concrete workers and Hawaiian Cement, was called into the talks over the weekend and set Wednesday night's meeting. At about 2:30 a.m. yesterday, the two sides reached a deal, giving 20 cement workers an $8,840 raise over five years, based on a 40-hour week.
The electricians, terminal operators, packhouse utility workers, heavy equipment operators and terminal laborers will get a $1.20-an-hour raise in the first year of the contract, an 80-cent raise in the second year and a 75-cent raise in the agreement's last three years, Coad said. Currently, affected workers earn between $49,920 and $58,240 annually.
By the end of the contract, the lowest-paid worker who had been making $24 an hour will be making $27.50 hourly, or about $57,200 a year.
With overtime, wages paid in 2005 ranged from $70,559 to $101,479, Coad has said. The average annual salary was $86,092.
In return for the wage increase, workers will have to start paying a 20 percent medical co-payment. Previously, Hawaiian Cement had been paying 100 percent of the workers' health coverage, Coad has said. Workers are expected to vote on the deal within the next five days.
The big sticking points throughout negotiations were medical co-payments and wages, said Teamsters President Mel Kahele.
"They kept insisting that they want us to pay more medical," he said. "Well, help us pay, and also put some money in our pocket for us being outstanding employees."
The unionized workers -- whose primary responsibility is unloading and distributing cement at the company's plants -- are scattered statewide, Coad said. There are 14 on Oahu, one on Kauai, two on Maui and three on the Big Island.
Star-Bulletin writer Rod Antone contributed to this report.