Labor union seeks $1M in back pay

  • Caleb Loehrer / The Garden Island

    Securitas airport police trucks line the front of the Lihue Airport terminal. Securitas employs about 95 workers on Kauai.

LIHUE — A labor union representing over 1,000 airport security officers in Hawaii is asking a federal judge to force a company to pay $1 million in back pay to hundreds of employees.

The International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, Local 650, filed a motion in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii earlier this week, requesting that a judge require the private security firm Securitas to pay nearly $1 million to hundreds of airport security officers and traffic control officers at Hawaii’s five major airports.

According to SPFPA Local 650 President Rodney Kim, the union has 95 members working at Lihue Airport.

An SPFPA news release issued Thursday said the union initially won the million-dollar award in early July after a months-long arbitration process in which SPFPA representatives sought unpaid wages from as far back as January 2018, when union members were supposed to receive an increase per their collective-bargaining agreement.

In September, Securitas’ attorneys filed an action in Hawaii’s First Circuit Court in Honolulu, demanding that the arbitrator’s award be set aside, according to the press release, which said, “this compelled SPFPA to take the extraordinary step of removing the action to federal court and counterclaiming against the employer to make their members whole.”

“We’ve tried for months to ask Securitas to do what’s fair. Unfortunately, they’ve refused to make our members whole,” Kim said in the press release. “It’s part of a pattern of negative behavior on their part, and it’s simply not right.”

The union also filed unfair labor practices claims with the Honolulu office of the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Securitas’ delay violates the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith with the union and to honor its contract.

Securitas delayed payments in other recent Hawaii arbitration awards, such as in the case of a Maui guard who won a substantial back pay award after an arbitrator concluded that the employer fired the guard without just cause, the SPFPA news release said.

“We try to have a good relationship with our employer, and view arbitration and court action as last resorts. We want compliance, but it seems like Securitas just wants to delay,” said Ryan Kelly, vice president of Region 3 of SPFPA, in the release.

“Typically, in other states, it takes less than 30 days for these issues to be resolved,” Kelly’s statement continued. “In this case, it appears that Securitas is doing everything in its power to stonewall Hawaii workers.”

State legislators spoke out on behalf of the labor union in its campaign to get back pay for the Securitas employees.

Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), a commercial airline pilot, said: “As someone who frequently travels through our state’s airports, I know that our airport security guards play an integral part of keeping the traveling public safe. They deserve to be treated with respect, and I hope a resolution can be achieved soon.”

On Thursday, The Garden Island spoke with a supervisor at the Securitas office at the Lihue Airport, who said he would pass on the request for comment to the company’s human resources officials, but no response was received by the time this article went to print.

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Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.

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