Matson strike over, settlement reached

Charles Khim
Charles Khim
Ernie Wagner
Ernie Wagner

By Mari-Ela David & Paul Drewes

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The tides take a quick turn in the Matson navigation strike. What typically lasts a few weeks, ends in less than a day.

"This is the first strike I've seen that lasted only 12 hours long!" said Charles Khim, the attorney representing the union, Masters Mates and Pilots (MM&P).

The labor dispute threatening to cut off shipment of goods, in and out of Hawaii, is over. Contract negotiations ended successfully Saturday evening, with a settlement.

All three unions reached a tentative agreement with Matson, in a four-year deal.

Khim says details of the agreement are confidential until union members ratify the contract. A vote is expected to happen in 2 weeks.

Khim did say the gap between the lower pay for the newer ships and the regular pay for the older ones has been narrowed substantially. He says neither party feels they were coerced into an agreement.

"It's like a situation where a family has a spat and so, you know, both sides are a little angry with each other. However, they've cooled off and decided to meet each other halfway and therefore they've come together again to work harmoniously as a team," he said.

The difference in pay was one of the sticking points in the contract feud. When Matson bought new cargo ships a few years ago, officials say the shipping company asked union members working on the new ships to take a pay cut. Otherwise Matson would've had to outsource the MM&P jobs.

During the contract talks, MM&P wanted that pay restored.

Earlier in the day, the SS Maui was temporarily stuck in Seattle, Washington after a Matson worker with the American Radio Association union, went on strike.

The other unions, Longshoremen, and MM&P honored that strike by not crossing the picket line.

That meant the ship wasn't being loaded or staffed, and would not sail to Hawaii as originally scheduled.

The striking workers were worried about their jobs and also raised safety concerns.

"It gets pretty tight sometimes navigating with a lot of ships especially in certain areas there are a lot of ships they can't monitor the radios," said Ernie Wagner, a striking radio officer.

Now that the three unions and Matson have reached a tentative agreement, workers are expected to start loading up the SS Maui again, for a shipment to Hawaii in the next few days.