Tuesday, October 26, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Stevedores management representatives, left side of
the table, shake hands with ILWU negotiators after
signing yesterday's agreement.

Dockworkers upbeat on
raise, begin ratification
vote Nov. 8

By Mary Adamski
and Susan Kreifels


Hawaii's harbors are humming with action again, but dockworkers will not begin voting until Nov. 8 on a new three-year contract that reportedly gives them wage parity with West Coast workers.

Negotiators for 500 stevedores and the companies that employ them signed a memorandum of agreement yesterday confirming the settlement reached in weekend negotiations.

"Everybody is on the job as of today. They're very upbeat, very relieved," said Eusebio Lapenia, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142. "We achieved most of the things we were striving for."

Lapenia confirmed that local workers will receive wage parity with West Coast ILWU members who got a pay increase of 8 percent over three years in a July agreement. Details of the settlement will be withheld until they are explained to union members, he said.

"The children of Hawaii will be happy to receive their Christmas trees in time," said U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday morning. The judge canceled hearing dates scheduled this week on a work slowdown staged by stevedores two weeks ago.

It may not lead to a costlier Christmas, but the chief management spokesman indicated the settlement eventually will be felt by consumers. "Obviously it will raise the cost of doing business. Labor costs are an element of the pricing structure," said Tim Ho, president of the Hawaii Employers Council.

Ho said "We have an agreement we can live with."

The federal judge applauded both sides on behalf of the court as well as the community for avoiding a strike and acting in good faith in accordance to federal laws. The agreement "was not reached with a gun to the head of any party," he said.

Ezra said the dockworkers were "putting in 110 percent effort" to make up for shortages and work loss. He had issued a 10-day restraining order after the companies claimed that an Oct. 10 work stoppage, followed by several days' slowdown in unloading ships, had cost up to $3 million. That dispute was resolved as a result of the settlement announced yesterday.

Hours after Ezra's Oct. 15 order, ILWU leaders gave 72-hour notice that they would terminate the contract, which had been extended since July. Union members unanimously voted last week to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike.

The court maintained jurisdiction pending contract ratification. Ezra said he had no reason to believe union members would not ratify the new contract.

Lapenia said details of contracts covering three other units of about 200 workers, including wharf clerks, maintenance employees and mechanics, and container freight station workers, still have to be worked out. He said he expects no problems; "the rest will be pretty much be falling in place."

Union negotiators would not provide details about current wages and benefits. According to reports on the West Coast agreement covering 10,000 workers, the least skilled waterfront workers make $26.68 per hour while the most-skilled including crane operators earn $31.22 per hour. The annual pay ranges from $55,000 to $130,000, according to reports.

Hawaii dockworkers have said the annual figures don't apply to them since they don't work the amount of hours put in by their counterparts on the West Coast, where busier harbors and a booming economy lead to more overtime.

"Don't blame workers who belong to an industry that pays well," said Lapenia in answer to questions. Asked if the union compromised in its demand for parity with the West Coast, he said,"In the areas we had to have parity, we did achieve that."


The longshore ratification meetings will be:
BulletOahu: 10 a.m. Nov. 8 at ILWU hall.
BulletMaui: 1 p.m. Nov. 9 at ILWU hall.
BulletKauai: 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at ILWU hall.
BulletHawaii: 10 a.m. Nov. 12 at ILWU hall in Hilo.

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