Matson reaches last-minute deal with unions, avoiding strike

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A last-minute deal reached Friday means two unions have averted a strike agianst Matson.

The strike could have had detrimental effects on Hawaii, according to a union lawyer.

The Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Marine Firemen's Union planed to strike if an agreement could not be reached with Matson by 9 p.m. Friday, when the contracts of hundreds of Matson crew members and engine room workers expires.

The last strike against Matson happened back in 2009 and lasted just 12 hours.

But attorney Charles Khim said a longer strike involving the union workers could have put Hawaii's food supply into a "crisis," with less manpower to transport food to the islands.

"Without the Marine Firemen's Union making sure the generators are operational, you can hit port with 100 containers filled with rotten food," Khim said. "In two weeks, supermarkets will be empty of so-called fresh food, hamburgers, hotdogs, and bread."

More than 75 percent of the goods sold in Hawaii arrive on container ships, workers say, and any disruption of services could create inconveniences for consumers.

The main demand union workers had was job security.

Khim said the older and more seasoned employees wanted to be sure their positions wouldn't be taken by less experienced, cheaper labor.

Before the agreement was reached, a Matson spokesman said the company was working with the unions well before the deadline.

"Negotiations are in progress and Matson is focused on negotiating in good faith toward a timely, fair and equitable agreement," said Keoni Wagner, company spokesman.

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