HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s largest labor union has filed a grievance against the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation over recent layoffs at the troubled rail project.
Since HART’s interim CEO Lori Kahikina was hired in January, the rail authority has laid off dozens of staffers and contract workers at its downtown offices. The union says HART should have given the workers a 90-days notice.
Government watchdogs said it’s a rocky start for the new CEO.
“For HART to be at odds with its unions, failing to consult with its unions this late date on substantial personnel changes, that just doesn’t seem like a very good sign in terms of the capability of management to keep this project on track,” said Ian Lind, investigative reporter and board member of Common Cause Hawaii.
The Hawaii Government Employees Association represents professional and white collar employees at HART’s downtown offices. It’s asking that HART reinstate laid off employees in its units, restore lost wages and to provide 90-days notice for future layoffs.
HART spokesman Joey Manahan declined comment, saying the rail authority hasn’t been able to review the HGEA’s grievance.
But Mayor Rick Blangiaridi said HART’s interim CEO Lori Kahikina has assured him that the decisions were necessary.
“In my discussions with Lori Kahikina who is the new CEO -- she seems adamant that the new decisions that have been made have been in the best interest in the project,” he said.
“There was a feeling from the evaluations being made that we had a lot of redundancies.”
HART has declined to provide Hawaii News Now with a count of the employees and contractors that have been let go since Kahikina was hired. But sources said it includes a number of project managers with extensive rail experience.
In response to this, Blangiardi said, “While they may have been experts, we had other experts. I don’t think anybody said let’s throw out the experts and have a bunch of people here who don’t know what’s going on.”
“The project is just too important.”