Wednesday, October 20, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
A forklift transports a container yesterday that was
unloaded from a Sea-Land cargo ship.

Dock talks
set to resume

The ILWU and management
representatives will meet Saturday
to try to stave off a strike

By Russ Lynch


Negotiators for the Hawaii dockworkers and their employers are scheduled to be back at the bargaining table Saturday morning, for the first negotiating session since last Friday.

This time the union, Local 142 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, expects to be armed with an overwhelming vote from its members authorizing leaders to call a strike.

The Hawaii Employers Council, representing management of the four stevedoring companies that employ the 500-plus ILWU dockworkers in Hawaii, said it rather meet sooner than Saturday.

"Given the urgency of the situation, we would have preferred an earlier resumption of the negotiations," said Tim Ho, Employers Council president. "If Saturday morning is the earliest the union will meet, we'll live with that," he said.

The session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the ILWU hall on Atkinson Drive.

The employers say they have asked repeatedly for a bargaining session but until now their calls have not been returned.

After unanimous pro-strike votes on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, the ILWU has scheduled a meeting Friday of its biggest waterfront unit, representing 427 members on Oahu. If the vote goes as expected, union leaders will be authorized by the rank and file to order a strike whenever they deem it necessary.

The employers -- Matson Terminals Inc., Hawaii Stevedores Inc., HT&T Co., and McCabe Hamilton & Renny Co. -- have said they thought the call for a strike vote was premature because talks had been proceeding and they believed an agreement could be reached.

Meanwhile, the ILWU members today were working for the second day without a contract. The last three-year contract expired June 30 but was extended by mutual agreement, subject to 72 hours notice from either side. The ILWU gave that notice Friday and the contract was terminated Monday night.

Both sides were scheduled to be in federal court late today, when U.S. District Judge David Ezra was expected to rule on an ILWU motion to overturn a no-slowdown order that Ezra issued Friday. The ruling came at the stevedoring companies' request after sickouts and slowdowns created delays and backlogs at Hawaii's ports.

Ezra ruled Friday that under the contract the union members could not strike, have a sickout, or conduct other work slowdowns without taking the matter to binding arbitration. The union issued its 72-hour notice that it was canceling the contract after Ezra's ruling.

Even though the contract has been cancelled, Ezra's ruling still is in effect. The union is expected to argue today that the restraining order should be lifted since the contract has now expired.

While the ILWU has made no public statement on its demands, individual members have said the dockworkers want parity with their counterparts on the West Coast who recently won pay increases averaging 8 percent over the life of a new three-year contract.

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