Hawaii dockworkers and stevedoring companies have reached a tentative contract agreement. The local talks were much less intense than negotiations last year on the West Coast, when a lockout idled docks in Hawaii and along the West Coast.

deal reached

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii's dock workers and stevedoring companies have reached agreement on a new labor contract intended to bring labor peace to the Hawaii docks for six years.

A tentative agreement, to be voted on later this month by 480 rank and file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, was reached Saturday.

Management and labor representatives said they won't disclose details until after a vote by the workers. However, one source close to the talks said the pact keeps isle dock workers close to their mainland counterparts in pay, at an average of about $100,000 a year, but gives them improvements in pension and retirement benefits.

Dockworkers in Hawaii always have strength in their ability to stop almost all freight in and out of the islands, but this time there was no local stoppage. Shipments from the West Coast were disrupted when shippers locked out dockworkers in September and October, but Hawaii workers handled all the goods that came to their docks.

"I think both sides think it's a fair settlement. Both sides worked to find solutions to each other's problems," said Tim Ho, the Hawaii Employers Council chief who headed the waterfront employers' group in the union negotiations. The attitude of negotiators on both sides in Hawaii "was always constructive, always looking for ways to get things done," Ho said.

An exact date for a ratification vote has not yet been set, said Eusebio Lapenia, Jr., president of ILWU Local 142.

"Naturally we're pleased, and pleased that we settled peacefully" he said. "I wouldn't say it was contentious, it's just that we were all aware about the cost of the package that the union was looking for."

ILWU officials were not available for comment.

Usually the union and the employers in Hawaii wait for a settlement on the West Coast before wrapping up the local contracts covering a much smaller number of workers.

The issues are different. Hawaii dock workers are used to automation and computer controls over freight movement, so local issues centered around retirement benefits in recent years, while their West Coast counterparts also worry about work opportunities lost through technology.

Pay rates have not been widely different between the West Coast and Hawaii but the opportunity to work has been a bigger issue on the mainland, where ILWU workers get assigned their jobs through union hiring halls. In Hawaii, they are employees of specific stevedoring contracting companies. In slow times one company will lend some of its workers to another.

The West Coast and Hawaii contracts, both for three years in the last deal, ran out June 30. Both new settlements run through June 30, 2008.

In Hawaii, the waterfront employees are four companies: Hawaii Stevedores Inc., McCabe Hamilton & Renny Co. and Hawaii Trucking and Terminals Inc., which are stevedoring contractors, and Matson Terminals, part of shipping line Matson Navigation Co.

A separate agreement covering nearly 200 workers in smaller, but related, waterfront businesses, has yet to be worked out. Talks for those workers will start Jan. 14. The smaller satellite contracts still to be negotiated cover wharf clerks, maintenance shop workers and a small number of employees of Matson's container freight station and its container yard at Sand Island.

On the West Coast, 92 percent of the unit representatives who voted at a coast-wide caucus in December approved new contract terms that have not yet been disclosed.

The ILWU membership at large began voting on the contract terms yesterday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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