The strike started impacting several Hawaii island businesses on Thursday and many remained closed on Saturday because they couldn’t get gas or propane delivered.
Both parties said no agreement was reached over the weekend and negotiations are not expected to continue until June 19.
On Saturday, Hawaii Gas said in a statement:
“Hawaiʻi Gas met with the Teamsters Local 996 all day yesterday and through early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached. We continue to make ourselves available to meet with the Teamsters, and the earliest they can meet is June 19. We have contacted the Teamsters to meet earlier than June 19, as any unreasonable delay in reaching an agreement can only result in the continued inconvenience to and disruption of the ability of our customers to operate their businesses and their households, not to mention the impact on our employees.
Although we are currently operating the company with a reduced workforce and we appreciate our customers’ and community’s understanding while we get through these challenging times, we hope that an expedited return to the table before June 19 can minimize this impact. We have made the necessary arrangements to continue operating and servicing our customers albeit at a reduced capacity. Be assured that the company is executing on its contingency plans to ensure that our customers are taken care of as soon as we are able to. We know how much our customers rely on us to be there for them, and it disheartens us all to be in this position. It is unfortunate that the union elected to strike when their wage increase demand remained at 28.5%. We nevertheless remain at the ready to meet with the Teamsters as early as today to resolve the remaining items on the table, and look forward to bringing our skilled men and women back to our `ohana, as soon as possible.“
This comes as several Hawaii island businesses have been forced to close their doors because gas deliveries aren’t being made.
Kona residents said all restaurants at Kona Commons were closed on Saturday, June 10, except for Subway, with signs that read they had no gas to service their customers.
Residents are also being forced to shower outside or buy electric cooktops to make food.
One Kona resident said she called the company last Friday, the day after the strike began, and was told service would be normal and her tank would be refilled on Monday.
“Monday came and went, and when we realized they didn’t refill the tank we immediately called and they told us they were on strike,” she said. “I asked if there was a contingency plan to service the customers and they told us no.”
The Kona resident said she called other gas companies to fill the tank but they told her they couldn’t because she didn’t own the tank, and only Hawaii Gas would be able to remove the tank or fill it.
She said most of the places nearby have long lines for propane — or are sold out of propane.
“It’s damaging because they’re saying the service won’t be interrupted however, that’s not the case and I’m extremely disappointed because of Hawaii Gas not having a contingency plan to assist with this,” she added.
Manago Hotel had to shut down its restaurant for two days last week just so hotel guests could have hot water to shower.
Jaren Niimi, the hotel manager, wasn’t sure when Hawaii Gas would come to fill the tank and started calling around to other local gas companies, but started to panic when he learned Costco had to stop serving several hot items at the food court, because they had no gas either.
“That’s Costco, that’s one of the biggest operations in the world and they can’t even get gas,” Niimi said.
On Friday, Hawaii Gas said they’ve deployed alternative personnel including other gas providers to ensure businesses can resume operations.
Companies like Alii Gas came to the rescue and refilled tanks at several businesses including Costco and Manago Hotel.
“We had Alii Gas help us out, local company, non-union, and they were able to help us and we’ll be operational by tomorrow,” Niimi said.
“It’s more country living here on Hawaii island, a lot of people live off-grid so it’s all propane-based, so most people go to Ace to fill up, and they were out of propane for a while, so it’s been really tough,” he added.
Although he’s glad his restaurant was re-opened, he said, “We’re hoping it doesn’t last much longer because then the other effects are going to start taking a tool because if people don’t work, yes, the business loses money, but our staff is not making money either, and they need money to live and pay their bills so it’s hard.”
Hawaii Gas said its focus is to ensure emergency services and critical care facilities are maintained.
Molokai is another island that relies heavily on propane too, and residents there said they haven’t had any in days.
“It’s a constant circle of do you have? and where can I get? And it’s pretty wild over here on Molokai right now without the propane,” said Molokai resident Ashley Hogue.
“We usually refill at Texaco, Bobo’s is the auto place, and the main supplier is Makoa Trucking Company but they announced Tuesday they were run dry and a shipment was coming Thursday and then Thursday came around and nothing, and then the handwritten signs started popping up saying closed until further notice,” she added.
She said Molokai residents are taking boats to Maui to grab supplies and try and fill tanks for kupuna and other households.
In the meantime, she’s been showering outside when it’s sunny, hang-drying her clothes, and making fires to cook her food.
“It’s a little concerning not knowing when the next shipment is going to come,” she said.
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said all county mayors and the governor have been having discussions about the situation.
“We’re hoping the negotiations come to an amicable agreement and so we have had some conversations, we’re hoping like I said they can come to a good conclusion and hopefully we don’t have to take additional steps,” Roth said.
On Saturday, Teamsters sent the following statement after failed negotiations:
It comes with a heavy heart to inform you that the current negotiations have resulted in the employer wanting to continue the current strike. The Union’s initial wage opener of 30% and a 5% increase of the current medical premium, fell on deaf ears when the employer decided to serve the Union with a last best and final offer (LBFO).
After only two meaningful passes, the employer forced our Union members out on strike. In the spirit of wanting to seek resolution the Union requested a reconsideration of the LBFO by the employer to reconvene negotiations.
Upon reconvening negotiations, the Union made significant moves to bring the strike to an end by offering a total decrease in wage proposals of 8% and a proposed 15% increase to our members medical premium contribution. The Employer initially offered a 10% wage increase and a 30% cost share increase of the total medical premium which amounts to about $400.
Currently, the workers’ pay a flat rate of about $60.00 since they have taken raises of almost nothing over the past two contracts to maintain their flat rate premium.
The employer chose to move off their initial wage proposal of 8% to an 8.6% wage increase. A .6% wage difference, however still 2% lower than their initial proposal.
With that, the employer failed to bargain in good faith to help put an end to the strike.
The Union feels that it is time to inform the public of the ongoing attempts by the Union and to be transparent of all the tactics of the employer.
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At this time, we would like to ask the public for your understanding and support for our 216 members who have been forced to strike due to “Corporate Greed”. We will continue to work diligently to bring this issue to an end. The company has reached out to meet at their earliest convenience starting the week of June 19. We remain ready and optimistic about getting our striking members back to work so they can continue serving the people of Hawaii who we call Ohana!