Hotel union contracts are poised to expire
The hotels and Local 5 blame each other for the slow pace of talks
And the rush is on.
Only a few days remain before contracts expire for approximately 6,500 Local 5 hotel workers employed in 10 of Waikiki's largest hotels. Union talks between Unite Here Local 5 and Hawaii's hotel companies began earlier this month, but both sides have said that little progress has been made.
Though union issues vary from property to property, hotel workers have indicated that they are concerned about wages, protection from outsourcing, job security for military personnel who are called to action and growing workloads.
Meanwhile, some of Hawaii's hotel companies have expressed frustration that negotiations are not relevant to their properties and that talks are bogged down by a myriad of secondary issues.
Both sides, however, agree that it's important to get new contracts in place as soon as possible.
"We hope we can get some contracts in place by the end of the month," said Cade Watanabe, a spokesman for Local 5. "June 30 is fast approaching and we're not encouraged by the slow pace."
While the union has held several meetings with hotel bargaining teams, many properties have criticized Unite Here for beginning the process late.
The Laulima Council, which represents the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hyatt Regency Waikiki and Marriott Waikiki Beach, said although it had requested bargaining dates in January to expedite the bargaining, the process did not begin until June.
"With the contract expiration date looming, it is regrettable that bargaining has begun at such late dates," Laulima Council members said in a letter to community leaders that was dated Saturday.
The council has set up its own Web site, www.laulimacouncil.com, to provide bargaining updates.
"As we've stated all along, we will work hard to reach a mutually beneficial agreement for our employees and the hotel at the bargaining table," said Gary Seibert, managing director of Hilton Hawaii.
But Watanabe said hotel companies have postponed many meeting dates and actual talks are moving much slower than expected.
"We are very concerned that Hilton will be dictating the pace for Hyatt and Marriott," he said.
Negotiations between the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Local 5 are still stuck on secondary issues, although union bargaining members and Hilton's management began meeting in earnest on June 6, the letter said.
The Laulima Council said that other properties are experiencing more of the same. Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa, which met with Local 5 on June 16, is not slated to talk with the union again until July 6. Continued talks with the Waikiki Beach Marriott, which did not meet with Local 5 until June 22, are tentatively set for July 10.
The union has also met and made some progress with Benchmark Hospitality's management team at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, where there has been a boycott in place for more than two years, Watanabe said.
"There was a lot of progress made, but I can't speculate how close we are to settling," he said.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which began meeting with the union in May for talks involving Sheraton hotels in Waikiki, also has said bargaining to date has been positive.
David Uchiyama, regional director of communications for Starwood, described the process as "going quite well."
"We've had about eight sessions and there is good dialogue between both teams," Uchiyama said. "Last week, we put our financial package on the table."
Further discussion is set for tomorrow, Uchiyama said.
"The momentum of the discussion seems to lean toward having a contract in place by summer," he said.