Hilton and union reach deal
Four months of negotiations end with an agreement affecting 1,500 employees that will set the tone for other major Hawaii hotel labor contracts
Unite Here Local 5 and Hilton Hotels said yesterday they have agreed on the terms of a new contract for some 1,500 union members working at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa in Waikiki.
Details of the agreement will not be released until after ratification by union members. The date for a ratification vote has yet to be set.
HOTEL DEAL REACHED
Who: Unite Here Local 5 and Hilton Hawaiian Village
What's next: Ratification vote by the union's 1,500 members at Hilton, at a date still to be set
Impact: The agreement is expected to be a model for about 9,000 workers statewide, including the four Sheraton hotels in Waikiki plus the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, Waikiki Beach Marriott, Kahala, Ilikai and Ala Moana hotels
Breakthroughs: Resolving differences on housekeeping workloads, subcontracting, benefits for tipped employees, food and beverage workers, health care contributions and pensions
Spirits were high yesterday at a news conference announcing the agreement, which was reached following more than four months of negotiations and is expected to set a precedent for other Waikiki hotels.
Union talks with Sheraton are scheduled to resume today and tomorrow.
"The agreement with Hilton sets a pattern for workers in Waikiki and the rest of Hawaii," said Eric Gill, Local 5 financial secretary-treasurer. "We are very proud of this new agreement and believe it will continue to build good middle-class jobs for Hawaii. This signals a new era of partnership."
He declined to give further details of the agreements, including the expiration date, but said it should affect about 9,000 hotel workers statewide.
Sheraton is expected to follow suit, and so are the Hyatt, Marriott, Kahala, Ilikai, Ala Moana and smaller hotels. The four Sheraton hotels employ about 2,400 Local 5 workers.
"Hilton has shown courage by stepping forward and coming up with a contract that was acceptable with the union," Gill said.
Gary Seibert, area vice president and managing director of Hilton Hawaii, also was upbeat. He said the negotiations were well argued and hard fought but ended with an agreement that was generous yet fair.
"I'm happy to have peace," he said. "This is an era of better understanding and cooperation, to make sure our team members are taken care of properly and that we take care of our guests. ... This is no different than a long-term marriage. You have an argument, but then you get over it and you go on."
Both sides had been bracing for a strike. Last month, Local 5 members gave their bargaining committee permission to call for a strike if talks broke down. Members had begun making signs, even registering for strike benefits.
Local 5 spokesman Cade Watanabe said that talks with Sheraton last week went well. Usually, Sheraton sets the precedent, followed by Hilton. But Hilton beat Sheraton to the punch yesterday.
"We're very happy that Hilton was able to settle," said David Uchiyama, regional director of communications for Sheraton's parent company, Starwood. "The dialogue between both teams has been very positive, and we were able to reach tentative agreements on several items put on the table, and that kind of set the road map for Hilton, to a degree."
Dolores Reyes, a housekeeper at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, lauded Hilton's agreement to drop the daily quota of rooms to 15 from 16.
"I am proud of the hard work I do every day to support tourism in Hawaii," she said. "I am proud of my union, and I am proud of this agreement."
Hilton housekeepers Erlinda Sacoco and Luz Espejo said though it might not seem like much, dropping one room from the daily workload makes a big difference.
It means more time to eat lunch, according to Sacoco.
At the Sheraton hotels, housekeepers have long had a quota of 15 rooms per day, according to Watanabe. Hotel workers there want more improvements.
For Kaleo Aarona, a longtime worker at the Hilton reservations desk, it was the issue of job subcontracting by the hotel that mattered most.
She remembers when her job was subcontracted to workers in a small town in California in 2002, for minimum wage.
"They've put subcontracting to sleep," she said. "All along, we've said we need middle-class jobs here so we can continue to live and work here and raise our children so they can continue to live here."
Besides housekeeping workloads and subcontracting, Local 5 and Hilton ironed out differences regarding benefits for tipped employees, food and beverage workers, health care contributions and pensions.
Bargaining dates for the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa and Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa have yet to be announced.