HMSHost may layoff up to 500 furloughed Hawaii airport food service staff

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The impacts of the pandemic are now hitting our state’s airport workers.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

In a notice to the State Labor Department, HMSHost, which runs most of the food stands at Hawaii’s airports in Honolulu, Kahului, and Lihue, says it began furloughing employees back in March.

The company says that if those workers aren’t called back by October 15, the layoffs will become permanent.

Jeanine Ng has been working at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport for 22 years. She lost her health insurance in June along with other UNITE Local 5 workers for HMSHost and is now paying for private insurance.

“I’m covered, my family is covered. It’s about $1,200 a month so it’s a lot,” Ng said.

For utility worker Isreal Callo, his weekly $338 unemployment check isn’t enough to cover private insurance, which is needed to cover his various conditions that require medication.

“I am so concerned about my medical because I have my high-blood pressure. I have my cholestoral, I have my high sugar, so I need a doctor.”

HMSHost is owned by Italy-based multinational corporation Autogrill, which operates in 120 airports. HMSHost has a contract with Honolulu that has not gone to bid since 1992, with a current contract that runs until 2029.

UNITE Local 5, the union that represents HMSHost workers here in Hawaii, says it was sickened by the decision.

“The corporations who have made money in Hawaii all of these years forget us when they can’t make money anymore and they throw us on the trash heap,” Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill said.

Gill says the union went to the Hawaii State Capitol twice this year during sessions to try to save their jobs. The federal government’s $600 weekly unemployment checks have ended, and the White House and Congressional Branch are still at a standstill over a new relief bill. Governor David Ige vetoed a $100 additional unemployment plus-up from the state in July.

Workers say they feel left out in the cold.

“It’s raining, it’s pouring right now and I think people need help,” Ng said.

The impacted occupations include servers, baristas, as well as cashiers at airports in Honolulu, Maui and Kauai.

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