Unionized workers at Hawaiian Electric Industries utilities on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island walked off the job at 3:30 p.m. Friday after months of negotiations with the company failed to reach an agreement.
The strike as a powerful winter storm blew down poles and trees, leaving thousands of customers without electricity.
The company appeared not to anticipate a quick end to the strike in posting on its website what appeared to be an ad to run in tomorrow’s newspapers. In it, the utilities discuss how services will be dispensed during the strike, noting that repair times may be lengthier than normal.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 went on strike at 3:30 p.m. after being unable to reach an accord during more than five months of negiations with Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Co.
Hawaiian Electric said it was disappointed by the action and that its non-union workers can operate the systems to continue providing power service. It was unclear how long the utilities remaining workers would take to restore power to communities where there were outages.
The company posted a copy of a print ad on its website saying repair work will be given a priority over new services, which will be installed as resources permit. It said requests to start electric service where equipment is in place will require a minimum of two days notice and that service will only be turned on the same day in emergency situations.
It also said most electric meters will not be read during the strike and bills may be estimated based on past usage.
“Every effort will be made to ensure your continued reliable electric service. However, in the event of an outage, it is possible that repair times will be longer than normal,” said the ad signed by the heads of HECO, MECO and HELCO.
“We ask for your patience as repairs are made as quickly as possible while ensuring the safety of the public and our employees.”
The company said it would be reaching out to the union for further discussions and hoped to reach an agreement quickly.
Hawaiian Electric provides electricity to roughly 95 percent of the state, with most of these residing on Oahu where it has almost 300,000 customers. The company also has about 80,000 customers in Hawaii County and more than 67,000 on Maui, Lanai and Molokai.
On Kauai the power is provided through another company, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.
The IBEW Local 1260 represents a variety of workers at the utilities, including those in customer service, accounting, power supply, transmission and distribution, construction and maintenance and support services.