Union representing hundreds of hotel workers says hotels need to return to full service

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As Hawaii tourism returns to big numbers, hotels are calling workers back and looking to hire. But the union that represents many hotel workers says some employers are attempting to reduce staff at this time.

Unite Here Local 5 represents nearly 9,000 hospitality workers. The union says about 55% of them are back at work, but not all have full-time hours. Some hotel departments like valet service are still closed.

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“People are being called back as the demand goes up, you know, but in many cases, like we’ve had to file grievance after grievance, you know. They’ll bring somebody back, we need them five days, you bring them back three days,” said Eric Gill, union Secretary-Treasurer.

One hospitality analyst says Hawaii is doing better than expected, but it’s important to note that some geographic markets are still missing like visitors from Japan. That means some hotel departments are not operating at 100%.

COVID-19 restrictions also play a role. When it comes to room service, the CDC recommends not to do daily room cleaning at this time to lessen the possible risk of exposure to the virus. But Gill feels differently.

“They are using the pandemic as an excuse to eliminate the daily room cleaning, for example, and this leaves thousands of housekeeping workers unemployed,” said Gill. “We need hotels to return full service to our guests, so that we as Hawaii can continue to be attracted to those guests, and so that we have the jobs that we need to survive as a community.”

Hospitality analyst Vikram Singh says employers should be fair and not expect people to come back at a lower wage than when the pandemic started.

“Don’t expect them to take a cutback because demand is recovering, you know, the market is doing good, and it’ll do really well as the year ends,” said Singh. “Right now, it might feel like a payroll expense that you don’t need, but you are investing in your team, and that’s the right approach to looking at this is.”

Switching gears to the airline industry, American Airlines is canceling flights citing unprecedented weather combined with labor shortages. The company says it has not canceled any of its 23 scheduled departures from all four counties. Hawaiian Airlines says while it continues to hire for more than 100 positions, there has been no impact to flights. United and Southwest also report no issues.

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