Friday, July 6, 2001

Two Japanese visitors, Mai Ono and Lina Ishikawa,
wait to cross the street in front of the Aston Waikiki
Beach Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. The union representing
former hotel workers have been picketing the hotel
and its new management company, Aston Hotels & Resorts.

ILWU loses round
in hotel fight

Judge rules union must seek
benefits from former owner

By Russ Lynch

The union that represented workers at the 719-room Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Hotel has lost a major round in an ongoing fight with new owners and managers.

State Circuit Judge Karen Blondin ruled that the $7 million or so in cash that the hotel has accumulated since it was placed in the hands of a court-appointed receiver in August cannot be used to pay accumulated severance and vacation benefits claimed by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

The money may only be used to pay for benefits specifically earned during the 10 months of the receivership, Blondin said.

The union has said its members at the hotel, some of whom had worked there more than 20 years, were owed more than $1 million in severance and unused vacation pay under their contract and they deserve it even more because they hung on and worked hard in trying conditions and made money for the property.

Blondin's ruling Tuesday was that whatever their long-term benefits might be, they cannot come out of that recently accumulated cash.

The union lost almost all of the 270 jobs when the hotel changed hands Sunday to become the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, managed by Aston Hotels & Resorts and owned by Hawaii Ventures, a subsidiary of a New York investment firm that bought the hotel for $80 million in a foreclosure auction May 16.

The ILWU now is left with the task of trying to get severance pay from Otaka Inc., the Japan-owned company whose loan default ended in the foreclosure of the hotel.

Blondin ruled that the union members are entitled to benefits incurred during the receivership, such as vacations they took without pay pending resolution of the case, but the funds held by receiver Patricia Kim Park, the attorney who also was commissioner in the foreclosure action, may not be used to pay claims arising from earlier service.

Union members have picketed the hotel and handed out leaflets. The ILWU has also said that the new owner inherited the union contract that covered 232 ILWU members. Court rulings so far have not made clear whether that claim is legitimate, so the dispute is expected to continue.

Meanwhile, the hotel on Kalakaua Avenue across from Kuhio Beach, the former Holiday Inn Waikiki, remains open with a reduced staff of about 100. Aston said the staff is a mix of former employees and people from other hotels and has been cut to less than half because business is expected to be slow through the 10 months of a $30 million renovation.

The ILWU said only about 20 of its members were rehired.

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