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Union: Hundreds Of Hawaii Airport Workers To Be Laid Off

Ryan Finnerty/HPR
Many shops at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu remain closed as the state reopens under its pre-test program that allows visitors to skip the travel quarantine.

Hundreds of Hawaii airport concession, bar and restaurant workers are expected to be permanently laid off this week, according to a local union.

The UNITE HERE Local 5 union said the workers facing layoffs beginning Thursday are employed by HMSHost Corp., an airport subcontractor, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The layoffs are also expected to include pantry and maintenance workers at airports in Honolulu, Kahului and Lihue, the hospitality and health care union said.

HMSHost plans to lay off about 470 of 550 workers in Honolulu, 140 of 170 workers in Kahului and 52 of 60 workers in Lihue, the union said.

The state will allow HMSHost to permanently lay off nearly 85% of its workforce, totaling about 780 people at the three airports, the union said.

Maryland-based HMSHost did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"UNITE HERE Local 5 condemns the layoffs and calls out the state and hospitality industry leaders for claiming they want to reopen tourism to bring jobs back, yet allowing for mass permanent layoffs at the state airports to happen,” the union in a statement.

HMSHost issued notices in August to employees saying the company had started furloughing workers in March due to the unprecedented decline in airport traffic resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said the furloughs would be converted to permanent layoffs Thursday if employees were not recalled by then.

Local 5 spokeswoman Paola Rodelas said keeping workers temporarily furloughed, and calling them back when needed, would not cost the company money. The furloughed workers had not been provided with health coverage since June, she said.

"Permanently laying them off adds chaos and uncertainty for our members,” Rodelas said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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