Ilikai employees fear for future


POSTED: Thursday, July 09, 2009

More than 100 employees and supporters of the Ilikai Hotel gathered along Ala Moana Boulevard yesterday, hoping to send a message to the New York-based owner who is closing the hotel.

iStar Financial plans to close the hotel after it takes possession of the property tonight at midnight.

Cade Watanabe, union spokesman, said Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union would like to open a dialogue with iStar to rehire the workers and remake Ilikai into a respectable hotel and source of employment.

The Ilikai opened in 1964 and gained recognition in the “;Hawaii Five-O”; television series in the 1960s.

The union says about 75 full-time employees will lose jobs, while the company estimates 65. Some have worked at the hotel for decades.

Employees will not get the severance and vacation promised in their contract because the hotel was sold in foreclosure.

Employees didn't know how long their medical benefits will last.

iStar Financial said it explored all the options to avoid closing the hotel but could not reduce operating losses from the 203-unit property, which have totaled several hundred thousand dollars per month.

The company, which focuses on commercial real estate, became involved with the property in 2007 after purchasing the $141 million loan to developer Anekona Development. Anekona bought 343 units in 2006, intending to renovate the hotel into a luxury property.

The developer defaulted on the loan while still owing $86 million. iStar purchased the hotel for $51 million at a foreclosure auction in May.

Some employees worried that the company is trying to get the union out of the hotel and rehire workers at a lower rate.

The company released a statement yesterday saying it understood the impact of the closing on the community and employees and that it is considering proposals to improve operations, reduce costs, and save jobs.

Community activists, such as the group Faith Action for Community, joined the rally to say their 30,000 members support the


;[Preview]  Workers rally at the Ilikai hotel

On the eve of the shutdown of the Ilikai hotel, workers are rallying to save their jobs.

Watch ]


Hotel guest Sabrina Mooney of California decided to return home when she heard about the closure from a letter that was slid underneath her door.

“;It's a nice hotel,”; she said, but added the company should have announced the closure earlier. “;People are very upset.”;

Arriving guests were shuttled to another hotel in Waikiki.

The 806 condominium and timeshare units and pool will not be affected.

Ludivina Collins, 55, a housekeeper at the hotel for 17 years, worried about losing her health insurance, which pays for her husband's medicine.

“;I'm kind of scared,”; she said. “;I don't want to lose my house either.

“;I tell my husband, 'Don't worry; we'll be all right.'”;

Rudy Ranchos, 59, said he felt like weeping after he lost 75 days of vacation time. But the banquet employee, who has worked at the hotel for 40 years, showed up at the rally to show support for his fellow employees.

“;I love the Ilikai no matter what,”; he said. “;We got a great family.”;