IBEW on strike (Photo by George Waialeale)

HONOLULU, HAWAII – The  The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1357’s 700 members ordered a two day picket outside of Hawaiian Telcom starting at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 10.

The strategy, according to one union member, is to bring international attention to the so far failed negotiations between management and union members.

The job walk off of more than half of the company’s 1,300 employees comes at a time when an estimated 20,000 national and international delegates from 21 countries and several world leaders including President Barack Obama are in town for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference.

The conferences runs from November 7 through November 13, but the busiest part of the conference is Thursday and Friday. An estimated 1,700 journalists are also reportedly here from Asian countries and the mainland US states.

Hawaiian Telcom said in a statement today that the company has a contingency plan during APEC.

“With a proud history of dedicated service to the people and businesses of Hawaii for the past 128 years, Hawaiian Telcom regrets that union leadership of IBEW 1357 has elected to start a work stoppage on one of our State’s proudest moments hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation events.  Countless Hawaii residents are volunteering, sacrificing, and contributing toward showing that Hawaii is an ideal setting for high-level business gatherings and even international diplomatic meetings.  It is unfortunate that the Union has begun its work stoppage at this time, when they could have waited and continued working through APEC without losing anything.”

“Hawaiian Telcom’s contingency plans considered the special needs and focus required during the APEC conference.   The plans we are now executing upon provide for essential functions normally performed by the Company’s union-represented employees to be performed by reassigned management employees and non-union employees, along with outside contractors in key technical areas.  For security reasons, we cannot disclose any greater detail, but we have planned and are prepared for this contingency.”

Both sides have presented the so called last, best and final offer before coming to this point.

Tension has been building since late October, with union members pledging to strike if they don’t get their way.

Hawaiian Telcom said its offer “balances all parties’ needs with the realities of competition in the communications business and a challenging economy.”

The company said it offered:

  • “Union employees currently pay nothing toward full healthcare coverage for themselves and dependents.  The company’s last, best and final offer would provide that employees contribute 10 percent to healthcare premiums for employee and dependent coverage;
  • “Employees currently may take up to six months fully paid sick leave each year.  The company’s offer provides up to 8 weeks fully-paid sick leave annually, plus adds company-paid long-term disability and long-term care insurance;
  • “Union employees are currently provided a pension and matching 401(k) of $0.82/dollar up to 6% of base salary.  The company’s last, best and final offer provides an enhanced 401(k) company dollar-for-dollar match up to 10 percent of base salary while freezing pension plan benefits at existing values;
  • and 1 percent compounded wage increases and an annual $500 ratification bonus for three years.

Hawaiian Telcom Company Spokesman Scott Simon said the twice company offered to extend to the expired agreement until after the conclusion of APEC events, “but the union declined those offers.”

George Waialeale, an IBEW member, told Hawaii Reporter that union members are upset because in the last two quarters Hawaiian Telcom has been showing a profit and is making a move into the video market to compete with Oceanic Cable.

He also pointed out that Eric Yeaman the CEO and President of Hawaiian Telcom made $6.72 million in compensation for 2010, when the year previous, he made $1.32 million in compensation.

“That is by my calculations a 408 percent pay increase,” Waialeale said.

He explained that in Hawaiian Telcom’s final offer to the members of IBEW Local 1357, the company gave the union members a 1 percent pay increase and a $500 bonus each year over the life of the contract but removed their retirement plan.

“This is what I call “The Pie Theory” – Eric get’s more and the employee’s get less,” Waialeale said. Many working people believe that we should take care those who work hard and reward them for their hard work. It appears that Eric Yeaman has been rewarded beyond all reason; and at the same time he has forgotten about the employee’s who work each day to make Hawaiian Telcom a better company. I suggest that we reverse “The Pie Theory” Eric should receive LESS and the employee’s should get MORE to send the right message about performance incentives.”

Hawaiian Telcom customers will be impacted, Simon said: “While we hope to return to normal operations soon, we sincerely apologize to our customers for any temporary inconvenience due to the union’s action and ask for their patience and understanding during this period.”

Simon said customers could be impacted by the union’s work stoppage: “Repair work will be prioritized to first address needs of critical facilities; other field work and service issues will be prioritized based on available resources; and wait times when calling the Company may be longer.”

Customers with billing, service or other questions can find assistance at hawaiiantel.com, Simon said.

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