HONOLULU (KHON2) — As Hawaii prepares to welcome visitors back, a battle brews between the union for hotel workers and their employers. The union is accusing the hotels of violating their contract by not bringing back enough workers.
The visitor industry cheered Gov. David Ige’s announcement on Tuesday, Oct. 19, to welcome back visitors starting Monday, Nov. 1. But Local 5, which represents thousands of hotel workers across the state, said hotels have cut back 30% of the worker’s hours — including in July and August when tourism bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. The union is skeptical on whether enough workers will get the hours when tourists start returning.
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“So, we’ll see, they’ll call people back; hundreds of people will not be called back. Hundreds of jobs have been lost. Hawaii’s economy is going to be severely impacted,” said Eric Gill, Local 5 financial secretary-treasurer.
Gill said many of the hotels have used the COVID pandemic to eliminate services and operate with fewer workers, which he stated violated their contract. An example of this is by not providing daily room cleaning.
“The fact is, we need daily room cleaning to keep people coming back. That’s what people expect when they go to Hawaii. They want to go to the beach, they are going to come back, there’s gonna be sand and boogie boards, the kids are going to make a mess. They need somebody to clean it up, that’s why they pay to come here,” explained Gill.
Mufi Hannemann, the president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said he is confident that most of the workers will be brought back — but not right away.
“We look at this as a first step towards rehiring workers and bringing them back. But it will also be an overstatement if we say everybody’s gonna come back to work come Nov. 1,” said Mufi Hannemann.
Hannemann said restrictions on gatherings still limit hotels from having large banquets and conventions, and those who work those events will still have limited hours. He added that hotel capacity has been down to about 50%, and they will need more staffing to provide a higher quality of service — which is what the state is trying to promote.
“So, we want to get up to what it was in 2019 when it was about 80% plus. So that’s gonna take, obviously to accommodate those numbers of folks, we’re gonna have to bring more people back to work,” said Hannemann.
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He added that it is critical for the hotel industry to send the right message to visitors when they return.