Union officials point to trend away from labor
Maui government officials say they are saddened by the layoffs at Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Inc.'s cannery, and hopeful the company will be competitive in its expanding fresh-fruit operations.
But union officials representing workers at Maui Pineapple say they are not happy with what they see as a continuing trend of layoffs by the firm.
"We're very disappointed," said William Kennison, Maui division chief for the ILWU. "They say they're going to keep fresh fruits, but we have our doubts. We can see the writing on the wall already. ... They're not for agriculture. I think they're looking more to the development side of things."
Kennison said Maui Land has closed businesses involving longtime employees, including the Kapalua Bay Hotel, the Village Golf Course and now the canning operation.
Douglas Cabating, an ILWU unit chairman, said he feels the company has been lying to him.
"It hurts. That's all I can say," he said.
Cabating said he has worked 27 years for the firm and has seen it go downhill and away from helping the community since the death of Colin Cameron, former chairman of the firm.
Cabating, 50, said he had heart bypass surgery three years ago. "For me to find a job is hard with health problems," he said. Cabating said he still has a daughter in high school who plans to continue her education.
"I don't know how I'm going to get her to college," he said.
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares said she was saddened by the approaching layoffs and hopeful that the low employment rate in the county will give affected employees an opportunity for a quick transition to new employment.
State Sen. Rosalyn Baker said she was hopeful Maui Pineapple would remain competitive through marketing fresh fruit.
"It's a part of Maui we're losing, and I think that's too bad. ... At least we're going to have agriculture ... and hopefully this strategy will be successful," said Baker, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
State Sen. J. Kalani English said he hoped the ILWU would be able to help the laid-off workers find other jobs. "I feel for those people whose jobs are affected," English said.
Tavares said she is sure the layoffs were a difficult decision for the firm but feels MLP's move toward the fresh-fruit business will signal a new chapter for the company.