As Hawaii prepares to welcome visitors back, 660 airport food service workers laid off

Updated: Oct. 14, 2020 at 3:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just as the state prepares to launch its traveler testing program Thursday, hundreds of airport food service workers are losing their jobs.

HMSHost, the company that manages the concessions and restaurants at airports, will permanently lay off more than 660 of its employees. That’s more than 80% of concessions staff.

UNITE Here Local 5, the union that represents those workers, announced the news Wednesday.

The decision impacts airport workers on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

“It confused me,” said Laura Gonzales, who worked at Stinger Ray’s Tropical Bar and Grill, located at the Honolulu International Airport.

“What am I gonna do now? Eighteen years of my life, I worked for this company and I was willing to work 40 more years, but they are telling me they are gonna permanently lay me off.”

After being furloughed in March, Gonzales expected to be reinstated once trans-Pacific travel resumed.

But a temporary layoff is now permanent and her union is calling out both HMSHost and state leadership.

“The state has been saying for months and months that we need to reopen tourism because we need to get the people back to work,” said UNITE HERE Local 5 representative Paola Rodelas.

“October 15th, tourism is supposed to reopen, yet the state is allowing the airport to lay off well over 80% of the concessions workers. It’s really, really frustrating and heartbreaking.”

UNITE HERE Local 5 says HMSHost has refused to listen to complaints from its workforce and won’t even meet to discuss alternatives.

“They’re disrespecting all our workers right now and what is it gonna look like to the public that’s traveling when there’s only one or two servers working at that one restaurant?” Gonzales said.

Hawaii News Now has reached out to both the state and representatives from HMSHost, but has not received a response.

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