Ilikai cuts jobs
Low occupancy spurs housekeeping cutbacks
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The Ilikai Hotel is cutting its housekeeping workforce as of April 1 to help weather substantial declines in occupancy over the next two months.
Occupancy at the Waikiki property is expected to fall between 30 percent and 40 percent in April and May, according to general manager Teri Orton. Orton said that the cuts are temporary, but wouldn't disclose the number.
Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers' union, said it fears the cuts are essentially layoffs of almost two-thirds of the unionized housekeeping staff.
Meanwhile, union workers and Ilikai apartment owners are expected to rally today in a simmering dispute that has plagued the ongoing $60 million renovation project proposed by Big Island developer Brian Anderson.
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The Ilikai Hotel is cutting back housekeeping staff on April 1, citing anticipated occupancy levels as low as 30 percent over the next two months.
Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers' union, says it fears the cuts are essentially layoffs of nearly two-third of staff -- or 29 of the 45 total unionized housekeepers, citing a work schedule issued by management reflecting the cuts as of March 30.
Ilikai general manager Teri Orton, who informed employees of the staff reduction at a meeting on Tuesday, said that some of the workers will be placed on on-call status, but she wouldn't disclose the number of workers who will be affected. Those workers will lose their medical benefits, she said.
"We're making changes in housekeeping services which in turn, means a reduction in labor," Orton said. "It's a temporary change for April and May because occupancy is dipping into the low 30s and 40s (percent) so we're putting together some contingency plans to get us through the next two months, which is a soft period for most hotels in Waikiki."
If occupancy picks up, management will reassess the situation in May, Orton said, though she didn't specify whether all of the affected workers would be rehired.
The remaining housekeepers will be required to clean as many as 50 rooms, the union said.
"It's scary," said 15-year Ilikai housekeeper Emmelyn Labuguen, one of the housekeepers who will be affected by the cuts.
The hotel doesn't anticipate layoffs in other departments, which have seen a reduction in hours and service, according to employees.
Meanwhile, union workers and Ilikai apartment owners are expected to rally today in a simmering dispute that has plagued a $60 million renovation project proposed by Big Island developer Brian Anderson.
Anderson's company, Anekona LLC, has become a subject of dissent among some employees, tenants, guests and residents of the middle-aged property -- a 1960s Waikiki icon made famous on the television show "Hawaii Five-O."
Anekona bought the property in July 2006 for $218 million with ambitious plans to reposition the Ilikai into an upscale condominium hotel. He simultaneously sold the 360-room Yacht Harbor Tower, along with the ballroom and central swimming pool, to San Diego-based eRealty Cos.
Anderson said yesterday he intends to move forward with a full-scale renovation, despite at least six months of construction delays stemming from a dispute with some apartment owners unwilling to approve his plans, which they say will harm the old-Hawaii character of the hotel.
Anderson withdrew a $12 million proposal to renovate common areas after failing to receive owners' approval and said he will allow the scale of the upgrades to be determined by the board of directors of the association of apartment owners. Anekona, two weeks ago, won five out of nine seats on the board, essentially gaining board control.
Owners say they fear that Anderson's control of the board will let him force unit owners to pay for improvements through special assessments. The union has also come out against Anekona's renovation plans.
Anderson said he is being unfairly characterized. "I'm just a poor local developer trying to make a living and these guys are huge, they're all beating me up," Anderson said.
The company has sold more than 100 units, but has another 200 units in play though buyers are hesitant to close on the sales until renovations are approved, Anderson said.
After at least six months of delays -- estimated to cost the company $5 million -- Anderson expects major renovations to begin this fall, with the Ilikai's grand reopening scheduled for late 2009.
A top-to-bottom makeover of the Yacht Harbor Tower also is underway, with a reopening date set for Jan. 1. The hotel was scheduled to reopen this summer, but additional improvements added to renovation plans has affected the construction timeline and pushed project costs to $33 million from $30 million, said Ed Bushor, eRealty's managing partner.
Meanwhile, some long-time employees say they are disheartened by the deterioration of the physical property as well as hotel services, which they say have been sacrificed for the proposed upgrades after management scaled back staffing to save money.
When Anekona bought the property, about 170 of the nearly 400 employees there at the time were cut, the union said, and further cuts have left just 120 workers.
"It was so bad I had to put a sign up in front that the front desk was closed (during lunch break)," said Tammy Omoso, a front-desk clerk who has worked at the Ilikai for 20 years. "It breaks my heart that a local guy has broken his promises and is now breaking apart our Ilikai ohana."
In addition, workers say Anekona has skimped on cleaning supplies and even regular coffee, leaving them to respond to angry hotel guests.
"We've suffered extreme cut backs in staffing already, so we're all overworked and nothing's even started yet. Every day they do something we think it can't get worse than this," said Joli Tokusato, a service center clerk at the Ilikai for 17 years.