Union, estate officials to meet over saving Del Monte workers' homes
Del Monte Fresh Produce employees, facing the end of pineapple production and their jobs, heard yesterday that efforts are under way to save their homes in the plantation village.
Tracy Takano, an ILWU international representative, said the union and the Kunia Camp Association will meet tomorrow with Campbell Estate officials "to discuss the land and ways for residents to take over their homes."
Government and union officials also described job training and financial aid available for the workers whose jobs will end by the last harvest in 2008.
More than 600 people attended the meeting at the Del Monte gymnasium called by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 700 workers.
On Feb. 1, Del Monte announced its plan to phase out its operation by the time its land lease with Campbell Estate ends. The company has since told 28 workers on the planting team that April 11 is their last day.
Also planned for tomorrow is a City Council hearing on a zoning measure that would make it easier for a landowner to release plantation village property. It would "allow a landowner to subdivide a property into individual lots ... and waive requirements for infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks," said Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who represents the Central Oahu district. The bill "grandfathers in the plantation village."
A similar bill before the state Legislature "will exempt plantation housing from state land-use law requirements," said Sen. Ron Menor (D, Mililani), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing Committee. The intent of Senate Bill 2774, which will be heard by the committee this week, "is to keep the Kunia plantation community intact ... without having to go through the land reclassification process."
Another measure, Senate Bill 2773, provides for low-interest loans and rental assistance for people who cannot purchase their own homes and "who will have a difficult time finding affordable housing," Menor said. It was passed by his committee and will be heard before the Ways and Means Committee this week.
Jeff Coelho, director of the city Department of Customer Services, told the workers that there is already money in the city budget to provide retraining through the Oahu Work Force program.
After the open meeting, ILWU members met in a closed session. Del Monte and the ILWU will meet tomorrow to discuss implementing options available under the collective-bargaining agreement, Takano said.
Company guards checked the identification of lawmakers and other officials invited by the ILWU. They blocked the news media from entering the Del Monte gymnasium on Kunia Road.