Matson reaches contract deal with two unions, members to vote next month

UPDATE: Matson reached a deal on contracts with two of its workers unions Friday afternoon.

The Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Pacific Coast Marine Firemen's Union were offered new, four-year contracts.

No details have been disclosed, but according to Sailors Union of the Pacific president Gunner Lundberg, no union concessions were made in this tentative agreement.

Members will hold two ratification votes next month, one on the mainland, the other in Honolulu. If approved, the contract would be effective starting July 1.

ORIGINAL POST: Expert says strike unlikely despite looming contract deadline for some Matson workers

A deadline is looming that could disrupt the shipping of goods in Hawaii.

Matson and two of its workers unions are in negotiations over contracts that will expire on Friday. If they don't reach a deal by then, workers could go on strike.

Experts say that is not likely to happen.

The head of the Hawaii Shippers Council says the two unions represent a relatively small percentage of the Matson workforce, but a strike would still cripple the company's operations and he doesn't see Matson allowing that to happen.

The two unions in negotiations with Matson are the Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Maritime Firemen's Union. They are known as unlicensed personnel who work the cargo ships, meaning they are blue-collar workers, not deck officers and captains.

While the two unions are not enough to stop operations on their own, experts tell us they will likely get the support of other union workers if they strike.

If that happened, "the cargo operations would stop. The movement of the ships would stop. Essentially, Matson would be not active for whatever period of time," explained Michael Hansen of the Hawaii Shippers Council.

The contract for both unions will expire at 9 p.m. Friday Hawaii time, which is midnight on the West Coast. Workers could go on strike by then, but it's also possible for both sides to agree to extend the deadline so they can continue negotiating.

Hansen says Matson ships about 80 percent of the goods that come in from the mainland to Hawaii, so Matson has too much at stake to let a strike happen.

Instead, Hansen says, negotiations will likely come down to the wire, and a deal will be reached or at least an extension of the deadline.

"This will not come to a strike. It does not make economic sense for Matson to have their operations shut down," Hansen said. "The potential losses for Matson in a situation like that are so large that it doesn't seem reasonable that they wouldn't come to a last-minute agreement with these two unions."

Neither side is saying much as negotiations are ongoing in San Francisco. The union says the main issues are wages, benefits, and job security.

A Matson spokesman issued a statement that said: "Negotiations are in progress and, as always, Matson's aim is to bargain in good faith toward a timely, fair and equitable agreement."

We'll keep track of the negotiations and let you know of any developments.

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