Yesterday’s talks broke off late last night. The union and O’ahu Transit Services (OTS) both agreed to a wage freeze during the first year of the strike. However, union representatives are asking for raises during the second and third years. OTS said they may be willing to discuss a third-year raise. The city maintains that there is absolutely no money for a pay raise.
OTS is also only offering a one-year guarantee of no benefit reductions, rather than the three years drivers want.
Both sides continued to have harsh words for the other. “It’s ludicrous,” complained union leader Mel Kahele. OTS chief negotiator Perry Confalone countered that negotiating with the Teamsters was “like trying to hit a ‘moving target’.”
On Mayor Harris’ live, weekly program on ‘Olelo (public access TV), the mayor praised Hawai’i’s residents for coping so well. He also described Honolulu’s state-of-the-art traffic management center. Engineers at the facility can see more than 90 live traffic cameras and control over 700 networked traffic signals from a single location. This week, they’ve increased the length of green lights on major thoroughfares to keep the increased number of cars on the road moving along.
Negotiations will resume at 2 PM today. OTS representatives, at the mayor’s suggestion, delivered a letter to the Teamsters. The letter promised that if the City Council approves a fare hike that will add $6.8 million to TheBus’ budget, the company will not seek layoffs or reductions in benefits. The letter came after top-ranked Hawai’i DJs Perry & Price spoke with Union leader Mel Kahele on the air.
On KUMU radio this morning, Mayor Harris said he was pleased that both sides were returning to negotiation. He also reiterated the position that he, the Council, and OTS officials have maintained all along – there isn’t one penny to pay for increases in benefits. Kahele said that raises won’t be necessary for an agreement to be reached.
It’s unlikely that buses will be operating normally by this afternoon, Harris said. Therefore, the city’s emergency transportation system will continue to run today. A limited-stop express service with school buses began yesterday, with 15 contracted school buses leaving from Hotel Street to destinations in rural areas at 5:30 PM yesterday. The city believes ridership was limited because of the delay in getting the message out. The buses will cost $3,500 each afternoon.
Handi-van service has been slow because drivers and mechanics have honored picket lines. Service should be at approximately 60% of normal levels today.
Both OTS and Union representatives have told the other side to call when they’re willing to be reasonable. No new talks are scheduled.
Mayor Harris has considered the idea of dismantling OTS and running TheBus as a public service. Some council representatives, including East O’ahu councilman Charles Djou, are skeptical. He said, “Mandatory binding arbitration seems not to take into the kind of fiscal realities government and taxpayers face and has always had a very strong upward pressure on wages.”
A little more than half of the Handi-Van drivers reported for work today. (Handi-Van is a system to get elderly and disabled passengers to necessary medical procedures.) Most of those that did were unwilling to cross the picket line, but would work if the buses were brought to them by management.
City Van service has been wildly popular. The maximum capacity of 1,000 passengers was reached hours before the strike began. The city expanded the program today.
Jitney service was fairly underused yesterday. Taxi companies attribute that to the delay in getting information out – full route information was not published until the day before the strike. Also, many TheCab (no relation to TheBus) employees were not trained in time for the strike, reducing the number of available vehicles.
In a slightly humorous development, it turns out that the City is saving $1.5 million every week that the buses don’t run. Mayor Harris was quoted as saying, “Now, obviously, that’s not a way we want to save money. We’d rather have the bus drivers go back.”
P.S. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has begun using “TheStrike” in their newspapers. Although I coined the term a day earlier than the paper, I have no problem with them using it. I’m sure it was developed independently of Waileia.
TheBus drivers went on strike at 12:04 AM this morning, only three minutes after the threatened deadline.
Union leader Mel Kahele was quoted by the Star-Bulletin as saying, “I believe it is ludicrous for the company to believe that we are going to be in agreement with all the takebacks they are going to have on the bargaining table without even considering requesting for additional monies from the city and again from the City Council.” Kahele also promised that the union was “ready to go three months.”
OTS attorney Perry Confalone was similarly dismayed. He said that the Teamsters refused to give the company a written proposal until an hour or so before the 12:01 AM deadline.
Picket lines have been set up at TheBus’ Middle Street facility. The union also intends to march in front of Honolulu Hale – city hall.
At 5:30 this morning, many people already had contingency plans. Few people were at the city’s designated “‘Ohana Carpool” locations.
At the University of Hawai’i’s Share-a-Ride web site, only 14 rides were offered, and the response was equally small. UH Manoa has opened 1,900 additional parking spaces. All will be subject to the usual $3 fee. Community college campuses have adopted similar measures.
There’s exactly six hours until the 12:01 AM strike deadline. (Ignore the timestamp – my web server’s clock is off.)
The Teamsters resumed negotiations today at 2:30 PM, but a resolution is doubtful. According to leader Mel Kahele, “We actually don’t believe we’re going to be able to settle unless the company decides on withdrawing their so-called 38 takebacks.” (Star-Bulletin, no permalink available.)
Bus fare increases advanced through City Council. A final vote won’t be until September 25th. (Advertiser, no permalinks.)