Ilikai workers rally to save jobs

Tammy Omoso
Tammy Omoso
Bobby Kong
Bobby Kong
Jeanette Ah Tou
Jeanette Ah Tou

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's fear and frustration for nearly 65 full-time Ilikai Hotel employees. Facing several hundred thousand dollars in revenue decline a month, new owner iStar Financial is making the call to close the hotel section, at least for now.

The Ilikai's workers have rallied before, looking for things like better benefits. But this time, it was for their livelihood. Some have been at hotel as long as 30 years. Thursday at midnight, they'll all be fired.

"We demand, we insist, and we ask that iStar come and talk to the workers," said a Local 5 Union Spokesman.

Hundreds here lay it all out on the line. The front desk.

"It's heartbreaking for us, we've worked together for so long," said Front Desk Employee Tammy Omoso.

To the bell desk.

"I feel like I've been thrown out," said Bell Desk Employee Bobby Kong.


"I don't know how I'm going to survive," said Housekeeping Employee Jeanette Ah Tou.

To homeowners.

"It takes so much to build something up and nothing to tear it down," said Private Owner Al Brandle.

Employees aren't only out of a job, iStar Financial delivered another blow just before the rally.

"I have vacation I've accrued that they're not going to pay, I have sick leave that's been approved they're not going to pay," said Kong.

Workers say they're willing make concessions in their contracts to keep their jobs.

"Please negotiate with us, we want to be rehired and part of the Ilikai's future," said Omoso.

But so far, they say iStar has stayed silent.

"They just want to get away cheaper, save money, get rid of people here that have been working a long time," said Kong.

The company says it understands the closure's impact, it's explored alternatives, and as of Wednesday, closing the 203-hotel room portion of the property for an indefinite period is its best option. Still, hotel workers and their supporters unite with one last effort to stay employed at the iconic Ilikai.

The property's closure will not affect its private owners, time-shares or common areas. The union says it asked management to lay them off as opposed to firing them so they could keep medical benefits, but Wednesday, workers were simply told no.