Labor department helps laid off Superferry employees - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Labor department helps laid off Superferry employees

Louella Lake Louella Lake
Elsie Hartman Elsie Hartman
Ryan Markham Ryan Markham

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU HARBOR (KHNL) - A day after its final voyage, former employees of the Hawaii Superferry met with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' (DLIR) Rapid Response Team. It's an effort to help those laid off employees get back on their feet.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is helping former employees file for unemployment benefits, and is even providing job training. It's quite a change from the schedule they've been used to.

It's the calm after the Superferry storm, just a day since the Alakai sailed its final voyage as a passenger ferry service. Two hundred thirty six full-time, part-time and contracted employees are now officially unemployed.

"Ever since we were told this week, it was shocking, depressing," said Louella Lake, a former Superferry employee who worked as a customer service representative. "We didn't know what we were going to do."

"I feel sad because it's sudden impact the Superferry shut down," added Elsie Hartman, a former Superferry employee who worked as a steward.

They met with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Rapid Response Team, which will help them transition into the next phase of their professional lives.

"We recognize there are unique skill sets that some of their employees may have, operating in the marine industry," said Ryan Markham, a spokesperson with Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. "If we can find them jobs that can utilize their existing skills, then that would be great."

New unemployment claims in Hawaii went from 1,374 a year ago to 2,400 in January 2009. This is a 75 percent increase.

Still some keep hope alive.

"We are working together," said Hartman. "We are a team."

Others are still adjusting.

"Scary. It's going to be scary," said Lake. "May not be worried now, maybe I'm in shock, but later, maybe in about two more weeks, I'll be like, 'Hey, I need a job.""

Needing a job when the economy is suffering.

"I don't know what I'm going to do but I'm excited," said Lake. "There's always closure somewhere maybe it's because of a better opportunity somewhere else."

The Rapid Response Team has been activated for other major layoffs, including one at the Advertiser and Aloha Airlines. The Hawaii unemployment office paid out $40 million in benefits just last month alone.

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