Strike deadline looms
for Hertz employees

Mandatory overtime remains
a sticking point in contract talks

Hope was waning last night that federally mediated contract negotiations would avert a strike of about 250 Hertz Rent A Car employees, who could start picketing as early as noon today at sites around the state, including Honolulu Airport.

Negotiators with Teamsters Local 996 and the company compromised yesterday on two key issues: wages and medical benefits. But Mel Kahele, Local 996 president, said mandatory overtime was a formidable sticking point.

"I don't believe we're going to resolve it" by the strike deadline, Kahele said. "The company's totally disregarding the needs we have for our personal lives. The end result is personal and domestic problems."

He said some Hertz employees work as much as 90 hours a week, and union officials are trying to convince the company to hire more people.

Messages left for Hertz's regional manager, in Honolulu for the negotiations, were not returned yesterday, and a spokesman on the mainland could not be reached.

Local 996 gave its 48-hour strike notice for unionized Hertz employees Tuesday, and Kahele said the union plans to picket in front of Hertz counters across the state.

A duty manager confirmed yesterday that Teamsters had applied for permits that would allow them to picket at Honolulu Airport. The permits were not yet approved, but were in order and would likely be ready if the Hertz employees were to strike today.

Kahele said yesterday's negotiations were conducted separately, with a federal mediator shuttling between the union's headquarters in Kalihi and Hertz's corporate offices downtown.

By about 6 p.m., Kahele said a tentative agreement had been made on Hertz employees' wages and medical benefits. He declined to release details.

If the Hertz strike happens, it would be the third by Teamsters under Kahele's leadership in as many years.

In August 2003, 1,300 city bus drivers and other unionized employees formed picket lines because Local 996 negotiators could not reach a contract agreement with the operator of the city bus, Oahu Transit Services. The strike lasted a month.

A year later, Kahele called a strike for unionized employees of two concrete companies, Ameron Hawaii and Hawaiian Cement, that slowed down construction on Oahu for months.

Hawaiian Cement reached a deal after 40 days, and Ameron Hawaii employees went back to work nearly two weeks later after agreeing on a contract.

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