Officials fear hotel worker strike could go into 2019

HONOLULU — Officials are worried a strike involving about 2,700 Marriott hotel workers in Hawaii could continue into next year.

The strike, which calls for higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions, began last Monday and continued through the end of the week.

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Negotiations between Unite Here Local 5 and Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Marriott-managed Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Maui, reached an impasse Monday.

The union has contracts expiring this year at 20 hotels but no bargaining will begin at other properties until workers get a contract from the largest hotel employer, Local 5 spokeswoman Paola Rodelas said.

With so many Local 5 contracts pending, it’s hard to predict the strike’s duration or if it will grow to include other properties.

Workers at the Sheraton Kauai Resort and the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, which are operated by Marriott, not Kyo-ya, also have voted to authorize a strike. The 640-plus union workers at these properties “could walk out at any time,” Rodelas said.

The state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism projects Hawaii could achieve its seventh consecutive record-setting year in tourism. But tourism officials say a union strike, especially a protracted one, would only add to a dampening in tourism that began in June.

A bigger concern than the strike-related cancellations that are hurting tourism now is the potential for the labor dispute to curb next year’s bookings, said Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting, who was formerly a top executive at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which once managed the Kyo-ya properties.

“We’ll still probably finish 2018 ahead of 2017 because the beginning of the year was so strong,” he said. “However, the booking pace in the fourth quarter is considerably behind last year and specials are emerging in the market. That will carry over and automatically soften the first quarter, which is a worry given that the first quarter often sets the pace for the year.”

Jack Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays LLC, had predicted Hawaii would break a benchmark 10 million arrivals this year. Now, he’s not so sure.

“We’ll still probably come in at 9.7 million or 9.8 million tourists for the year, but I don’t think that we’ll hit 10 million visitors anymore,” Richards said. “We’ve had volcanoes, hurricanes, floods and now union issues.”

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Kyo-ya declined to comment on the strike Saturday, but Local 5 said the company still not offered new bargaining dates.

Guests staying at properties where workers are striking have been dealing with long check-in lines, restaurant closures and cutbacks to valet parking, housekeeping and other services.

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