Hawaiian Telcom suspends, restores medical benefits to strikers

Hawaiian Telcom workers on Thursday in downtown Honolulu.
Hawaiian Telcom workers on Thursday in downtown Honolulu.

By Howard Dicus

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Telcom confirms it suspended medical benefits to its union work force during a two-day strike that ended Friday night, but said the insurance company would process reinstatement of the benefits Monday.

"Employees returned to work promptly at 8:01 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11th, without incident," said Lisa Parran, spokesman for the negotiations committee of IBEW Local 1357. "Unfortunately, the company took immediate punitive actions toward employees on Thursday, Nov. 10, by canceling their medical, dental, drug and vision insurance benefits."

The union said the company later advised it was restoring benefits but said employees who needed drugs or doctor visits over the weekend had to pay out-of-pocket, but the company said anyone so affected will be able to get that money back.

"Insurers were not available to process the restorations over the weekend," said Hawaiian Telcom spokesman Scott Simon. "While there may have been situations where employees paid out-of-pocket for services or prescriptions, claims can be refiled after benefits are restored."

IBEW called the strike after its members rejected the company's final offer, which was for 1 percent wage increases, an increase in medical copay from zero to 10 percent, and a reduction of paid sick leave from 26 weeks a year to eight weeks plus a short-term disability program.

No new contract negotiations are currently scheduled.

"We are very disappointed to report there have been no offers to return to the bargaining table," Parran said.

"The company has been highly focused on supporting APEC and the process of reinstating the union-represented work force post-work stoppage," Simon said.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.