Hawaii airports laying off 662 workers on tourism reopening day

Over 660 Hawaii airport workers will be permanently laid off on October 15, the same day that the state is reopening tourism. They work for HMSHost, …

Over 660 Hawaii airport workers will be permanently laid off on October 15, the same day that the state is reopening tourism. They work for HMSHost, an airport subcontractor that manages concessions, restaurants, Starbucks, bars, pantry, maintenance, etc. at Honolulu International Airport, Kahului Airport, and Lihue Airport.

The State of Hawaii is allowing this subcontractorto permanently lay off nearly 85% of its workforce in Hawaii. There areapproximately 780 HMSHost employees who work at these three airports. UNITEHERE Local 5 represents these workers and approximates that the company will bepermanently laying off 470 out of 550 workers in Honolulu, 140 out of 170workers in Kahului, and 52 out of 60 workers in Lihue.

According to the latest WARN notices issued by HMSHost on August 12, the company was planning on permanently laying off 505 workers in Honolulu, 161 workers in Kahului, and 57 workers in Lihue.

UNITE HERE Local 5 condemns the layoffs and callsout the State and hospitality industry leaders for claiming they want to reopentourism to bring jobs back, yet allowing for mass permanent layoffs at thestate airports to happen.

In August, UNITE HERE released a nationwide report on the handouts that HMSHost received since the onset of COVID-19. HMSHost was on track to receive $475 million in aid in the form of rent relief and other handouts. Despite the massive aid that local governments have provided to HMSHost, the company is still moving forward with mass permanent layoffs.

“In the 22 years that I have worked for HMSHost, Ihave never felt so disregarded as a human being. After putting almost all of myadult life into this company, they are laying us off even though it doesn’tcost them anything to keep us on and call us back in as business increases,”says Jeanine Ng, a server at The Local in Honolulu Airport.

“In the middle of a pandemic when we need healthinsurance most, HMSHost cut off our medical coverage in June. I’ve had to payout of pocket for my medication that I need to live. And now as tourism issupposed to be reopening, they are permanently laying us off and throwing usinto more uncertainty for no good reason,” says Laurie Ann Javierto, who hasworked as a cashier at the Old Plantation in Kahului Airport for 33 years.

Local 5 will continue to take action to helpfurloughed workers and push the state and industry leaders to get it right thefirst time and reopen tourism so that workers get back to work safely.

Uber, Lyft riding high with rule change

LIHUE — Uber and Lyft are cheering a state change that will make them eligible, as of Feb. 1, to pick up passengers at Neighbor Island airports, …

LIHUE — Uber and Lyft are cheering a state change that will make them eligible, as of Feb. 1, to pick up passengers at Neighbor Island airports, including in Lihue.

“We’re thrilled to be expanding Lyft’s operations to our Neighbor Island airports,” said Rob Mora, Lyft spokesman.

“We applaud the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s decision to allow rideshare pickups at Neighbor Island airports,” said Nathan Hambley, Uber spokesman.

The new rules allowing Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at the airport is another blow for Kauai taxi companies, which expressed worries about the arrival of the ride-sharing companies in 2017.

Then, some taxi drivers pointed out they have to pay taxes and fees, which drive up their operating costs. Uber and Lyft, some said, create unfair competition because they don’t have to pay those same taxes and fees and can charge lower fares, thus taking away customers from taxi services.

Amended administrative rules went into effect Aug. 24, allowing tansportation network companies to apply for permits from HDOT. The rules were approved by Gov. David Ige following public hearings held around the state in May and June.

This was the first time the rules for commercial services at airports had been amended since 2002, before TNCs came into being.

“The transportation network companies have been well-received by the public at HNL, and we are pleased to offer the option to Neighbor Island travelers,” said HDOT Airports Division Deputy Director Ross Higashi Thursday.

HDOT has established designated ride-share pick-up locations at Kahului Airport, Lihue Airport, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hilo International Airport and Kapalua Airport.

These Hawaii airports join more than 350 airports across the U.S. and Canada offering Lyft rideshare services.

TNCs began operating at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on a trial basis Dec. 1, 2017, and on a permanent basis Aug. 24.

TNCs must meet specific insurance requirements as specified by state law, pay associated fees and satisfy other requirements prior to being issued permits to operate at the airports.

Hambley said Uber was good news for Maui, Kauai and Big Island Uber drivers, as well as residents and visitors.

Lyft will now have a designated pick-up location at Lihue Airport.

“We’re thankful to the HDOT team for their collaboration, and we look forward to providing a great rider and driver experience at all the included airports,” Mora said.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.