Ilikai workers reach deal to keep the hotel running


POSTED: Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Ilikai Hotel will reopen with 50 workers — at least 15 fewer than when it closed at midnight Thursday — if Unite Here Local 5 ratifies a new contract with the hotel's new owners.

Ten hours after the closing of Waikiki's first high-rise luxury hotel, the union announced yesterday morning that it had reached agreement on a new contract with New York-based iStar Financial Inc. that would enable the 203-room hotel to reopen “;soon.”;

The company issued its own statement shortly thereafter confirming the hotel would reopen as soon as possible, pending contract ratification.

A vote has not yet been scheduled, said Cade Watanabe, community and political organizer for Local 5.

“;We are happy to announce today that the Ilikai is still our house,”; said Tammy Omoso, a front-desk employee at the hotel for 22 years, standing before a cheering crowd of former Ilikai employees at the union headquarters.

On Thursday, employees cleaned out their lockers and desks and removed photos and memories.

“;Yesterday we were so sad; today we're just so relieved,”; said Joli Tokusato, 44, a service center employee for nearly 19 years. “;We're going to help iStar make the hotel into the wonderful place it used to be and could be again.”;

Omoso said she was grateful that iStar met with the employees.

Although employees didn't know who would receive a job, they were still hopeful.

“;Yesterday we had no hope,”; Tokusato said. “;Everybody was crying.”;

“;It really hit us as we were closing down our desks for the last time yesterday. We had no idea we would be back here today, screaming and yelling,”; said Tokusato, who turns 45 today. “;This is going to be the best birthday present ever.”;

Workers will be rehired according to seniority. Wages, benefits and job security provisions will remain intact under the new contract, Local 5 said. Additionally, Ilikai workers will receive vacation pay accumulated prior to Thursday's closure, and those not rehired will be eligible for severance pay.

“;This agreement accomplishes what our members most desired,”; said Eric Gill, chief negotiator for the union. “;We will now have a real chance to work to rebuild the business and restore the reputation of this important hotel, and the opportunity to safeguard our future by working hard to make the new Ilikai a success.”;

The actual number that lost jobs with the Thursday closure is unclear as conflicting counts have been provided by both sides.

;[Preview]  Ilikai Hotel Reopens Its Doors

Ilikai Hotel workers learned this afternoon that their jobs had been spared

Watch ]


IStar announced Tuesday that 65 workers would lose jobs with the hotel's closure, but Watanabe said he believes there were “;between 65 and 75 full-time (union) workers.”; He was uncertain how many nonunion employees worked at the Ilikai.

In describing the talks, Watanabe said, “;it was a pretty vigorous process. ... It went well into the night. Both parties worked hard to reach this outcome.”;

The tentative deal provides for improved operational efficiencies and a better cost structure, according to iStar.

“;We believe in Hawaii and recognize the importance of this iconic property to the community,”; said Andrew Blackman, senior vice president for investor relations and marketing.

Long-term viability of the hotel depends not just on the agreement, but also on achieving sufficient cost savings and improvement in the state's visitor industry, Blackman said.

The company bought the 203 rooms and 16 commercial spaces comprising the hotel in a foreclosure auction in May. The previous owner, developer Brian Anderson, defaulted on a $115 million loan, and it was put into foreclosure. His company Anekona LLC has since filed for bankruptcy.

Aside from the iStar-owned parts of the property, the Ilikai consists of 1,009 residential units, most of them privately owned. Some are occupied by full-time residents, while others operate as time shares.

Sarento's Top of the I restaurant has continued nightly service despite the turmoil below and will stay open, said owner Aaron Placourakis.

“;As far as I'm concerned, we've done everything we're supposed to do. We're open for business as usual.”;