780 furloughed HMSHost employees let go

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island Visitors approach the TSA checkpoint, Monday afternoon at the Lihue Airport.

LIHU‘E — Ironically, over 780 HMSHost airport workers were laid off permanently after being furloughed in March in Hawai‘i, on the same day trans-Pacific travel reopened, including 60 workers at Lihu‘e Airport, on Oct. 15.

“This adds more stress to us in the middle of the pandemic when we have so many things to worry about already,” Cecilia Gipolan said, a cook who had worked at the Mea Inu Bar &Grill in Lihu’e Airport for four years. “We have recall rights because we’re union member, which means we still have a right to our jobs as HMSHost rehires workers as business returns.”

She continued: “But we don’t trust that the company will do everything they need to do to bring us back the right way. I think they’d rather hire new workers and get rid of us.”

Gipolan is worried about her family’s current healthcare and financial situation.

“I got on (my) husband’s medical after HMSHost cut mine in June, by my husband is getting laid off soon,” Gipolan said. “So my husband, our daughte, and I will be losing our medical coverage soon. Family medical with COBRA is over $1000 a month. I don’t know how we will afford that if we’re both laid off?”

Thursday, Associated Press reported that HMSHost laid off nearly 85% of its workforce, 470 out of 550 workers in Honolulu, 140, of 170 workers in Kahului, and 52 of 60 workers in Lihu’e.

Councilwoman Felicia Cowden was surprised to find out that 52 Lihu’e Airport workers were permanently laid off yesterday at the same time the state reopened trans-Pacific travel.

“The stability of our economy and people’s lives are tenuous,” Cowden said. “More layoffs are possible as the State faces a significant financial shortfall. Advance warning is crucial for being able to adapt.”

HMSHost gave out notices to all their employees in August stating that the furloughs issued in March, as a result of the decline in airport traffic from the pandemic, would become permanent layoffs on Thursday if their employees were not called back to work by then.

“Keeping workers temporarily furloughed, and calling them back when needed, would not cost the company money,” Local 5 spokeswoman Paola Rodelas said. “The furloughed workers had not been provided with health coverage since June. Permanently laying them off adds chaos and uncertainly for our members.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) announced on Sept. 24, the updated unemployment insurance claims information, including paying $3,298,070,537 and 3,448,775 weeks claimed since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 1, 2020.

“Ninety-six percent (96%) of the valid unemployment insurance claims that have come in since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been processed and paid out by the DLIR,” said Director Anne Eustaquio. “We also saw a 29% reduction in outstanding claims during the last week, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our DLIR staff as well as the volunteers working at the Hawaii State Library and Hawaii Convention Center.”

Since the pandemic began, DLIR said there were over 295,000 claims filed, while roughly over 108,000 of invalid claims were filed. There were still over 9,700 claims waiting to be verified, 188,000 valid claims requiring DLIR action, with 180,000 claims that need to be paid and over 7,700 of claims that require DLIR action as of Sept. 23.

HMSHost Lihu‘e has been contacted but did not make a comment on time.

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