Ratification vote set for electric workers after tentative deal reached

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Electric Company and its neighbor island subsidiaries have reached a tentative agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 1260. The roughly 1,300 union members will hold a ratification vote on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island this week.

Before news of the contract deal spread on Monday, union members continued to walk the picket lines.

"In my view it's a great agreement and it's fair to our employees and it's fair for our customers," said HECO president Dick Rosenblum. "The company's interest is to get everybody back as soon as possible."

Negotiators from both sides met with a federal mediator during a marathon session that ended after midnight. After the announcement, HECO's president did not answer any questions. The two sides declined to reveal the terms of the agreement.

"We need the membership to find out about it first and vote on it. They need to ratify the contract. Just like the last time, if they don't ratify the contract, we don't have a contract and we're gonna have to do this again," said Lance Miyake of IBEW Local 1260.

The previous contract ended in October, and had been extended through the end of January while negotiations continued. In the past, union members said sticking points included changes to medical and retirement benefits.

"We had to do something, and we got a tentative agreement, and that's where we're at," said Miyake.

Union leaders defended the decision to strike even though thousands of customers were left in the dark due to power problems caused by severe weather.

"We stopped talking. We were working. I don't know if it was miscommunication or what but it happened," said Miyake. "We had to address our concerns."

The new breakthrough comes as a huge relief to those living in hard-hit communities like Ewa Beach.

"We welcome the workers back with forgiveness and open arms," said Rep. Kymberly Pine. "I just expressed to them it's my hope that if this ever happens in the future that they help us first, let us know that they're committed to us, but we will go on strike after."

The union said Hawaiian Electric has reinstated medical coverage cut off during the strike.

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