Cement firms
face strike

250 workers could walk off
their jobs as early as tomorrow
and Saturday morning

An industry shutdown would also halt many
construction projects currently in progress

Possible strikes tomorrow and Saturday by about 250 cement workers of Ameron Hawaii and Hawaiian Cement would bring portions of the state's booming construction industry to a halt.

Ameron has already notified customers it is not taking orders after today, according to Bob Armstrong, president of Armstrong Builders.

The cement workers, covered under two different contracts, are represented by Teamsters Local 966. The majority, about 140 workers, are employed with Ameron.

"Nothing much happens without concrete. It's integral in everything we do," Armstrong said.

The union and employers have been negotiating since November. The contracts expired on Dec. 31.

"We're still hopeful Ameron will come back to the table and negotiate further," said Michael Chambrella, attorney for the union.

Chambrella said if negotiations are not successful, Ameron workers could strike as early as 12:01 a.m. tomorrow. For Hawaiian Cement workers, the strike would begin just after midnight Saturday morning, he said.

While Chambrella could not give details about contract sticking points, disagreements relate to wages, proposed increases in medical co-payments and sick leave, he said.

In a statement released late yesterday by Hawaiian Cement, the company said if there is a strike, it will have no choice but to shut down operations until its employees return to work.

The company said it believes its latest proposal is fair and in the best interests of employees and the company, but it also said it is prepared to return to the bargaining table.

Likewise, Ameron said it believes the current proposal is fair and that the company is committed to resolving issues at the bargaining table.

Officials at both companies did not return calls for further comment.

Ameron supplies the majority of cement for construction projects on Oahu, said Bill Wilson, president of Hawaiian Dredging.

"Ameron being on strike will certainly have an impact on projects requiring concrete. Since Ameron is the supplier of what I believe is the majority of cement on the island, all the concrete work will be impacted," he said.

For Hawaii's home building industry, the impact will be immediate, said Mary Flood, vice president of Schuler Homes Hawaii.

For Schuler alone, 12 communities are under construction on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. They would all be affected, she said.

"At each place, we pour about six slabs a week or more. So right away in one week, we would be 36 homes behind schedule. In a month that would be 144 homes," she said.

If other developers, such as Castle & Cooke, Gentry Homes, Haseko Homes and Stanford Carr Homes, that are in a similar position are included, Flood estimates that at least 100 homes per week would be affected.

Such a stoppage would also have a domino effect on other contractors connected to the various housing developments.

"For every week they are out, it would probably put homes behind more than a week because there are many other activities with contractors who have scheduled themselves for months out to follow the slab pour. (They) would have to be rescheduled," Flood said.


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