Times workers call for boycott
Union worried that many strikers won't be rehired
STORY SUMMARY »
Times union workers -- entering the fifth week of a labor dispute -- are now calling for customers to boycott the supermarkets.
The Hawaii Teamsters & Allied Workers Union Local 996 rejected Times Super Markets' latest offer over the weekend, and now says it is concerned that the company is not rehiring the majority of union workers that went on strike.
In addition, the full-time deli worker position has been eliminated at all 12 Oahu stores.
Union workers plan to hand out pamphlets and stand with signs outside of Times sometime this week asking people to boycott the store.
Times, meanwhile, says it has done its best to hire back as many of the 116 meat cutters, wrappers, journeymen and utility workers as business would allow. To date, 34 have gone back to work, said Bob Stout, Times' director of operations.
But Times took a hit during the three-week strike that started on Dec. 17, and can only hire union workers back as business allows.
Though the Teamsters presented Times with a return-to-work offer last week, it says the boycott is now necessary to ensure union workers get back their jobs.
Both parties continue to disagree over medical premiums for employees on extended leave as well as the number of work hours guaranteed, and the company retirement plan.
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Union workers at Times Super Markets are now calling for a boycott after rejecting the company's latest offer over the weekend.
The Hawaii Teamsters & Allied Workers Union Local 996 -- going into the fifth week of the labor dispute -- now has an issue with Times not hiring back the majority of union employees that went on strike. In addition, Times is not taking back any deli workers -- a full-time position at all 12 Oahu stores that was eliminated during the strike.
"It's unfortunate the company is still not wanting to take these people back," said Ron Kozuma, president of the 6,000-member Hawaii Teamsters. "Times talks about ohana, but the union and its members are now questioning whether Times even knows what ohana means."
Kozuma said Teamsters will now stand outside of the Times with signs calling for consumers to boycott the supermarket and handing out pamphlets.
Earlier, union workers had walked off the job on Dec. 17 for a strike that lasted three weeks. Then early last week, the Teamsters presented Times with a return-to-work offer to stop the company from hiring permanent replacement workers.
Over the weekend, according to Hawaii Teamsters, 26 meat managers, assistant meat managers and journeymen were called back to work.
But that leaves another 90 in the lurch, and the Times management has refused to specify whether they have been terminated or laid off, says the union, which represents about 10 percent of Times' 1,100-member work force
But Bob Stout, Times' director of operations, said the union has no reason to call for a boycott.
A total of 34 union workers have now been hired back, he said, with more to follow as business allows. He said a tentative agreement also was reached last Monday on almost all of the issues for a three-year contract affecting the 116 meat cutters, wrappers, deli clerks, fish cutters and utility workers.
That contract included the largest wage increase in more than 20 years, he said, along with medical coverage for employees and their families, 401(k) plan contributions and other incentives.
The issue, he said, was whether Times could afford to continue providing medical coverage in perpetuity -- and the answer was: "We can't." He said the union members account for 40 percent of overtime labor costs and 67 percent of workers' compensation costs.
"We went into this hoping for a quick end to the strike," said Stout.
But when that didn't happen, he said. Times had to make some decisions to continue serving customers and to ensure the integrity of its operations.
"We do consider ourselves an ohana at Times," said Stout. "But we're also a business. Sometimes, we need to do what's best for the financial health of the overall ohana, not just a few of its members. This is one of those cases."
Originally, the conflict centered primarily around how long the company should pay medical premiums for employees on extended leave.
Other sticking points now include the company's plans to do away with the guarantee of a 40-hour workweek and annuity-based retirement plan. Times prefers to enroll employees instead in its 401(k) plan.
Times proposed limits of one year for existing workers, and three months for new hires -- which was rejected by the Teamsters.
Currently, there is no limit.
The Hawaii Teamsters also agreed to no pay increases for one year in exchange for keeping their benefits, but that offer was rejected by Times.
"In this case, all the members wanted was to keep the benefits they previously had," said Kozuma. "It was never about asking for more wages or pensions."
Times was founded by the Teruya family in 1949, but sold to Quinn Supers Inc., a subsidiary of PAQ Inc. of Stockton, Calif., in 2002. PAQ operates a chain of Food4Less stores in Northern California, which are nonunion.
Kozuma said Quinn Supers owner John Quinn is putting profits before people, and that he does not understand the local culture of taking care of workers. Quinn stepped up when Times' former president, Roger Godfrey, retired early last year.
Still, the Hawaii Teamsters are willing to go back to the table and negotiate.
"We hope we'll be able to resolve this one way or another," said Kozuma. "We're still willing to negotiate."