Resort latest to fire workers
Kaanapali Beach Club terminates workers amid contract talks
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Approximately 34 workers from the North Beach Grill at Kaanapali Beach Club on Maui were notified yesterday morning of the layoffs and sent home, according to hotel workers union UNITE HERE! Local 5.
The union has alleged that the layoffs come as an attack on workers at a time when the hotel and the employees' union continue to work on settling a new contract. KBC management did not return a call seeking comment.
Hotel properties throughout Maui have been particularly hard hit by the recent downturn in tourism. The KBC layoffs came right on the heels of massive layoffs at Maui Land & Pineapple Co. and Molokai Ranch.
Members of Maui's hospitality industry and state agencies are rushing to help laid-off workers, but however Maui's job market is softening and there may not be enough positions to go around.
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Coming on the heels of massive layoffs at Maui Land & Pineapple Co.
and Molokai Ranch
, about three dozen workers at Kaanapali Beach Club
on Maui became the latest visitor industry workers to lose their jobs yesterday.
Approximately 34 workers from the North Beach Grill at Kaanapali Beach Club were notified yesterday morning of the layoffs and sent home, according to hotel workers union UNITE HERE! Local 5. Some workers were dismissed hours before they were due to start their shifts and others were not given time to clean out their lockers, the union said.
The hotel should have given workers advance notice so they could pay their bills on time, said Jesus Garibay, who has worked as a host and cashier at the property for more than three years.
"In our industry we know how sensitive we are to the economy, but we also know that there's a right and wrong way to deal with these kinds of situations," Garibay said in a statement. "It's clear to us what path the hotel chose."
The union says the layoffs are a direct attack on workers at a time when the hotel and the union continue to work on settling a new contract. The contract, which covered approximately 240 bargaining unit employees at the KBC, expired on Jan. 1, said Cade Watanabe, a spokesman for Local 5. Earlier this month, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against KBC for withholding information necessary for bargaining, Watanabe said.
KBC management did not return a call for comment.
As Hawaii's lead visitor industry has grappled with the impacts of rising fuel prices coupled with decreasing consumer confidence and spending power, Maui has been among the hardest hit. Hoteliers, who have said that Maui's hotel occupancy is at a 30-year-low, have described industry performance as the worst ever.
"This is far worse than 9/11 or anything else because we aren't sure when any of this will improve," said Carol Reimann, executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association. "Until fuel prices settle down, we probably won't see any improvement."
Maui was already experiencing a visitor industry slowdown at the start of this year, but with the closure of Aloha and ATA airlines and the rise in oil prices, loses have continued to mount, said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau.
"People are concerned about rising oil prices and the loss to their discretionary income and they being very conservative," Vencl said. "We are putting out the message that this is a great place to be and that it offers great value and our partners are stepping up to the plate to offer all sorts of value adds and incentives."
Last week, Maui Land & Pineapple laid off 274 employees while Molokai Ranch, which is in Maui County, terminated more than 120 workers in March.
In the meantime, Reimann said that she and other state agencies are assisting laid-off workers. Reimann said she will meet with displaced workers from Kapalua Bay Resort tomorrow to share prospective job opportunities. State officials will detail unemployment, training and other benefit options, she said. Upon request, they will repeat the procedure for KBC, Reimann said.
"I have job openings from 12 different companies," Riemann said. "There is a good mix of jobs, but not enough jobs for everybody. The job market is really poor."
For example, this time last year, a larger hotel on Maui reported just more than 200 vacancies, but today has only 29, she said.
"Maui has been hit really hard," she said. "The job trend is really scary."
Job creation on Maui and the Big Island has fallen, said James Hardway, assistant to the director for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The June job count for Maui County was 72,850 compared to 73,650 in June 2007, a decrease of 800 jobs, Hardway said.
"It was primarily due to the leisure and hospitality industry," he said.
Jobs in Maui's trade, transportation, and utilities sector also decreased slightly partly from the loss in air transportation resulting from Aloha's closure, Hardway said.