Saturday, May 5, 2001

ADB Conference Logo

Hotel talks
turn optimistic

Time is tight as both sides
face the impending start
of ADB conference

By Russ Lynch

Negotiators worked late into last night in talks aimed at averting a strike of about 5,000 workers that would hit six major Waikiki hotels, right as a major international conference is set to start next week.

Representatives of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union last night said they were hopeful in meeting with representatives of the Hawaii Council of Hotels, which handles bargaining for management of the four Sheraton hotels, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Taking a late-night break from talks at the Hilton, Local 5 negotiator Eric Gill, noting management was considering a union proposal, said: "This is the first time they're taking us seriously."

Union negotiator Tony Rutledge said: "Maybe they'll give us an offer that we can't refuse."

Earlier this week, Local 5 notified the Hawaii Council of Hotels that it will hold a stop-work meeting Monday, asking all its members to stay away from work, and is preparing for a strike as early as Tuesday if a settlement has not been reached.

The timing coincides with the Asian Development Bank meeting next week at the Hawaii Convention Center, which will bring about 3,000 participants and their families.

"The Hilton Hawaiian Village has the bulk of the delegates to the ADB, so a strike would hurt the Hilton," said Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday. "Most of these delegates are accustomed to high-level hotel service. "If that is a problem it may affect how they think about Hawaii."

Sherri Chiesa, trustee in charge of Local 5, said one issue that is important to the union is subcontracting, the system by which some hotels farm out work to nonunion workers.

Local 5 wants an end to subcontracting, Chiesa said.

The union has also asked for a 5 percent pay increase in each year of a new three-year contract, better pension benefits and some other contract gains.

The union members have been working on an extended contract since the last one expired in March 2000.

Richard Rand, an attorney and negotiator for the management, said he would not discuss contract proposals outside the bargaining room, but that management was prepared to stay at the bargaining table through the weekend and was ready to "roll up our sleeves and try to get it done."

Cayetano said he will not get involved in the negotiations unless he is asked.

"I issued a press release yesterday asking both sides to resolve their differences, because it is important for the state that the ADB meeting be successful," he said. "If I can help in anyway, I will do what I can."

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