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Princeville workers agree to union contract

In a 136-33 vote late last month, workers at the Princeville Resort ratified their first union contract, which protects medical benefits and seniority during the hotel’s impending closure for major renovations.

The contract also allows employees to keep their full- or part-time status, on which benefits are based, during the closure and for a year following the re-open.

“This contract provides strong protection for the jobs and seniority of the Princeville Resort members,” Clayton Dela Cruz, ILWU Kaua‘i division director, said. “It was very important to negotiate these protections for our members in these tough economic times.”

Effective Oct. 12, non-tipped workers will receive raises averaging $1.35 per hour — as high as $2.76 per hour in some cases — as compared to their June wages.

Tipped workers’ wages will increase 30 to 75 cents per hour compared to their June pay when the hotel re-opens. Most tipped workers will also enjoy increased vacation benefits and the ability to receive three times their hourly wage for working on holidays.

In addition, Princeville Resort workers in non-tipping jobs will receive raises every six months totaling 14 percent over the life of the contract. Tipped workers will receive an additional 30 cents.

Earlier this summer an across-the-board raise was implemented and retroactive to July 1.

“Our negotiating committee worked very hard to get pay and benefits to the highest levels on the island,” said Michael Machado, who represented ILWU in the negotiations.

Machado told The Garden Island that talks with the resort’s parent company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, were not adversarial, though there were disagreements.

General Manager Milton Sgarbi was not available for comment Friday, according to the hotel’s spokeswoman.

The Princeville is expected to close this month and temporarily lay off approximately 360 of its 400 or so employees. Some management and a small maintenance crew will be kept on.

About 300 of the resort’s workers are represented by ILWU.

The exact date of the closure, announced earlier this year as Sept. 19, has not been confirmed by the hotel.

Unemployment meetings for staff will take place Sept. 22 and 24 for workers, according to Machado.

Workers chose ILWU in a September 2007 runoff vote between the union and no representation. The option of representation by Unite Here! Local 5 was eliminated in the initial vote in August 2007.

On Monday, a job fair will be held at the Princeville Resort for current and future laid-off workers, as well as the general job-seeking public.

In addition to those affected by the closure, there are approximately 56 Bali Hai Resort food and beverage employees who were terminated following the sale of the Bali Hai Restaurant and Happy Talk Lounge last month.

Fifteen employers with active openings have signed on to attend. The event will also feature advice from banks on dealing with creditors, resume and interview counseling, and training and education opportunities from Kaua‘i Community College.

Event organizer Jan Miyamoto, the county’s Workforce Investment Act administrator, said the timing coincides with shift changes at the resort.

Miyamoto said this event presents unique challenges, as many of the job seekers are looking for temporary work because they intend to return to the Princeville when it re-opens. In addition, there were fewer businesses looking to hire this time around.

“With the changing marketplace, I had many businesses say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks, because we don’t have any openings at this time.’”

Still, Miyamoto said employers understand that many of the Princeville workers have extensive training and sharp customer service skills.

In addition, retailers tend to hire extra staff for the holidays, which are fast approaching. A number of resorts from the North Shore and Eastside — including Marriott International, ResortQuest at Makaiwa and Wyndham Vacation Ownership — will be represented, along with Macy’s, KCFCU, McDonald’s, the county, KPD and Nursefinders.

The county-organized event is also open to the general public. It will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at the Princeville’s ballroom, 5520 Kahaku Road in Princeville.

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com

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