KAHULUI - Maui Electric Co. union members had mixed feelings after voting on a tentative agreement Wednesday that could end their nearly one-week strike.
"There are a lot of different opinions," said Sam Daunhauer, a customer/field representative, after the two-hour meeting and voting at Maui Electric's auditorium in Kahului. "We'll see what happens."
"I think it's a real personal choice," Daunhauer said about voting on the contract. He sensed at the meeting that workers thought there were different pros and cons about the tentative contract.
Maui Electric Co. employees gather Wednesday afternoon at the company’s Kahului headquarters for a vote on the company’s contract proposal.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 finalized the tentative agreement with the utility's parent company, Hawaiian Electric Industries, on Monday. Maui County was the first stop for the union vote. Union officials are scheduled to be on the Big Island today and Oahu on Friday, when a vote tally is expected to be done. (Kauai is not affected by the strike because electricity service there is provided by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.)
The union's business manager, Lance Miyake, of Oahu, said he had no comment before stepping into a van at Maui Electric's Kahului offices after the Maui vote.
Workers remain off the job. There also were some IBEW members picketing at the utility's Kahului office after the vote Wednesday afternoon. Picket lines have come down on Oahu.
There are around 200 IBEW members who work for Maui Electric and about 1,300 members across the state. Workers walked off the job at 3:30 p.m. Friday after negotiations broke down. The two sides met again Sunday with a federal mediator and arrived at a tentative agreement Monday afternoon.
Chassidy Morton, a plant aide who works at the Maalaea Power Plant, said she voted "no" on the contract.
"It doesn't look fair," she said.
Morton disliked that the company would no longer give employees a 33 percent discount off of their electric bills and said that the raise the company is proposing will only be absorbed by the increase in employee contributions for medical insurance.
She said she judged that Maui Electric should provide fringe benefits to employees, just like other companies that do so.
"The company will be getting more (money)," she said, with the company taking back the discounts.
Morton, who has been with the electric company for three years, added that those who join the company later this spring will not receive the same benefits that current employees receive.
But, overall, Morton said she is still happy to work for Maui Electric and likes the company.
Another Maalaea Power Plant worker, Joshua Ornong, said he didn't really like what he saw in the proposed contract, but he declined to say how he voted.
He said he had concerns about the retirement and medical benefits but didn't go into details.
The union members' contract expired Oct. 31, but it was extended through Jan. 31 as negotiations continued.
The strike on Oahu irritated residents who were out of power when workers walked off the jobs Friday. Thousands had lost power because of the weather.
Maui hasn't seen such a widespread power outage, although at 4:40 a.m. Tuesday around 670 customers in Kaanapali, including a few hotels, lost power because a cross arm holding an electrical power line broke. Most of the customers were brought back online by 7 a.m., MECO reported.
Maui Electric officials have said that trained nonunion workers are dealing with trouble calls and other matters.
MECO's Kahului business offices remain closed. Those with power emergencies may call 871-7777 on Maui and (877) 871-8461 on Molokai and Lanai.
The customer-assistance phone line is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Maui, call 871-9777; on Lanai and Molokai, (877) 871-8461.
More information is available online at www.heco.com. Click on "Labor Union Negotiations."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.