First round of layoffs begin for Hawaii's last sugar plantation
MAKAWAO, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 100 of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. plantation's 675 employees will lose their jobs Monday, in the first round of layoffs at the company as it phases out sugar operations.
Alexander & Baldwin announced the closure of the state's last sugar plantation in January.
Rooted on the island of Maui for 145 years, HC&S has become a way of life, providing opportunities for generations of workers. Now, employees are being forced to find new paths.
"People are slowly starting to look forward to their future," said Joseph Aquino, agent with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142.
Aquino is working with HC&S employees on the transition. He says workers are mainly concerned about medical coverage and paying off loans.
"A couple of them just bought homes and they're really shocked and sad because they thought they had a future with HC&S and this closing just set them back," Aquino said.
Wesley Bissen, a third-generation sugar worker, isn't part of the first round of layoffs but shares mixed emotions as he thinks back on his 30-plus year journey with the company.
"We're sad we're not going to be in touch as often as we are now," Bissen said. "It's very sad because we got close ties but on the other side, we're excited what's for us in the future."
Bissen says this last harvest is bittersweet for so many whose lives have been closely tied to sugar. Workers are trying to remain positive and giving their all to a job that provided much more than just a paycheck.
"I see more effort more detail to the job at hand," Bissen said. "A little bit excited, kind of anxious to get in all this cane and do a good job before we leave."
Alexander & Baldwin says the timing of future layoffs is still uncertain but they will occur as job functions phase out. All 675 workers will be laid off by the end of the year.
Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.