In emotional day, longtime HC&S workers clock out for the last time

First round of layoffs as Hawaii's last sugar plantation prepares to shutdown

PUUNENE, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Six generations of Robin Fernandez's family have worked at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. Fernandez alone put in 44 years.

And on Monday, he clocked out for his last shift -- the end of an era for his family and so many others like his.

Fernandez was among nearly 100 HC&S employees let go Monday, in the first wave of layoffs at the company as it gets out of the sugar business.

"There goes the era of sugar," he said.

Alexander & Baldwin, which owns HC&S, says it plans to pursue a diversified agricultural model in place of the sugar plantation, which officials say was no longer sustainable after they forecast losses of roughly $30 million in 2015 alone.

It's the last sugar plantation in the state, and it's been a fixture on Maui since opening nearly 150 years ago.

Fernandez was a member of the seed department. Everyone in his area, along with all of the planting department and a few people in the prep division, were among the first to lose their jobs.

Fernandez, 62, says he plans to retire, but will still be looking for part-time work. 

"My friends, my co-workers -- they're worried. And they're looking. I hope they find something," he said. "A lot of them have mortgages. A lot of them have kids. Plus, there's the medical and stuff. I feel for them."

A&B declined Hawaii News Now's request for an on-camera interview.

In a statement, A&B said, "We are saddened to start the layoff process today, and to witness the last day at HC&S for some of our dedicated employees. Our focus is on providing transition resources to this initial group of employees and our transition coordinators will provide personalized assistance to all displaced employees well into 2017."

It's unclear when the next round of layoffs will take place. Alexander & Baldwin says the layoffs will occur as job functions phase out.

One thing is for certain: The remaining 575 workers will be laid off by the end of the year, when the harvest ends in December.

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