Tentative agreement averts Matson shipping strike Friday

A possible strike by crew members on Matson shipping vessels was averted Friday, on the last day before a contract expired between the shipping company, and the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific and the Marine Firemen’s Union.

“We reached an agreement with the unions,” Matson spokesman Keoni Wagner said. “We’re very pleased to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

The signed agreement remained subject to ratification by union members, he said.

According to a written statement from Matson, the agreement is for a four-year contract with unions representing unlicensed crew members on Matson vessels serving Hawaii and Guam in domestic trades.

“Service will continue uninterrupted with the successful conclusion of these negotiations,” it said.

If there had been a strike, a key question would have been whether Hawaii dockworkers would stop loading and offloading vessels to support their fellow workers – ship navigators and firemen.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union represents harbor stevedores, and union Maui Division Director Stephen Castro Sr. referred questions earlier Friday to union President Donna Domingo on Oahu. She did not respond.

Matson employs 43 full-time workers on Maui and delivers two-thirds of Hawaii’s goods from the Mainland.

The company’s 2016 annual report says Matson and its subsidiaries employed 1,925 people as of the end of last year. Of those, 712 were covered by collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

According to the Matson annual report: “The absence of strikes and the availability of labor through hiring halls are important to the maintenance of profitable operations by Matson. Over the past 40 years, Matson’s operations have been significantly disrupted by only one labor dispute, which occurred in 2002 when the ILWU workers were locked out for 10 days on the U.S. West Coast.”