HECO, IBEW resume negotiations with help of federal mediator

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

MOILIILI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Negotiators for Hawaiian Electric Company and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers resumed contract talks Sunday, as nearly 1,300 unionized HECO employees continued walking the picket lines.

"Very important that we thank all of our customers who are suffering through pretty significant outages under difficult circumstances," Richard Rosenblum, HECO president, said. "We appreciate everything they're doing."

Unionized HECO employees on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island walked off the job Friday, as severe weather knocked out power to thousands of Oahu customers.

"We believe keeping the lines of communication are open," Rosenblum said. "We don't want any of our employees to not be at work every day, particularly when our customers are out."

On Sunday, another player sat down at the bargaining table -- a federal mediator to facilitate the talks.

"Our goal is to include an unbiased third party," Rosenblum said. "Sometimes that can take a lot of emotion out of the issues and find a path to bringing us together that perhaps we couldn't find on our own."

The contract covering the striking workers expired five months ago.

The two sides reportedly were at odds over retirement and medical benefits. But on Sunday, HECO officials would not comment on which sticking points remain.

"I really don't think it's helpful to try to talk about those issues outside the room," Rosenblum said. "It just raises the emotions. I think the issues are things the union and ourselves, hopefully with the help of a mediator, can really work through."

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