Hawaiian Air to shift some 230 jobs abroad
The call center and technology workers will all be moved to comparable positions
Hawaiian Airlines is planning to move most of its reservation call center operations to the Philippines, and its information technology and accounting jobs to India to reduce costs.
The outsourcing could affect as many as 230 Hawaii employees in those positions, but their jobs will be protected by shifting the individuals to other jobs within the company with at least the same amount of pay, according to an agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141.
Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner said yesterday the airline is still conducting its due diligence with multiple vendors in the two countries, but it estimates that the outsourcing likely will take effect sometime next year.
He said the company will save money over time through attrition and by being able to fill current and future positions with employees whose jobs were outsourced. Wages paid to foreign employees also will be lower than those in Hawaii, he said.
"We've toured facilities in both places and we're trying to be very careful about how we go about this, because there's a lot of sensitivities inside the company as well as the product we're providing for our customers," Wagner said. "We want to make sure whatever we do takes our employees into account and allows us to keep superior service levels. That's why we haven't exactly made any firm decisions yet."
Wagner said the Philippines is being looked at for the reservation call center and India for information technology and accounting, because those countries offer the best options for those particular areas. He said that the call center in Hawaii might continue to exist with fewer employees. Wagner also said there might be some positions available in those countries for Hawaiian employees to manage outsourced activities.
IAM District 141 has about 1,500 employees, including approximately 150 to 160 reservation agents, roughly a dozen IT specialists and approximately 60 accounting positions.
"In general, most of the major carriers in the airline industry are outsourcing work already," said Randy Kauhane, assistant general chairman of IAM District 141. "So we had to make sure that we protected our employees at Hawaiian Airlines so they wouldn't be furloughed. It's a sign of the times.
"At United, they closed down 17, 19 call centers throughout the U.S. and there's only three left. So we made sure when we went into discussions that we had certain guarantees from (Hawaiian)."
Once Hawaiian begins outsourcing positions, employees in affected areas will be able to shift to other areas and will have their jobs protected even if there are layoffs later in those areas, according to Kauhane. The job-protection clause, in place since July, applies to all employees in the affected jobs at the time of the agreement. It does not cover such IAM District 141 positions as customer service agents and ramp personnel, whose positions will not be outsourced.
Wagner said Hawaiian is following in the footsteps of other airlines that are going to great lengths to reduce operating costs.
"The new frontier, when it comes to competing, is managing the ever-growing cost of operations," he said. "And with the doubling or worse of fuel costs, it's put enormous amounts of pressure on airlines to manage their costs. Most of our competitors have gained tremendous cost advantages over the past year through some dramatic labor cuts -- both in terms of jobs, and wages and benefits. Pensions have been dumped, and there's been an enormous amount of pain in the industry because of this need to control costs."
Wagner said Hawaiian has taken a different approach to cost-cutting by preserving pay levels, not eliminating pensions and instead scouring its business for every other opportunity to reduce operating costs.
"Outsourcing has emerged as a very viable way to perform certain functions in the business at a much lower cost," he said. "For example, in reservations, we decided to pursue outsourcing as an alternative instead of simply automating those functions and furloughing or laying off people. Instead, we have worked with the union to come up with a groundbreaking agreement that provides employees in the affected areas with job security."