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Hawaii Dockworkers Threaten Strike

October 23, 1999 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) _ Hawaii dockworkers are threatening to walk off their jobs unless they are paid the same as their West Coast counterparts.

The 507-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 on Friday completed voting to authorize a strike if talks fail with representatives of the state’s four major shipping companies.

Oahu members, the largest contingent with 427 workers, authorized a strike on Friday, following earlier votes by members on the islands of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii.

The two sides were scheduled to resume negotiations today. The union wants pay raises similar to the three-year, 8 percent wage increase West Coast dockworkers received.

Local 142 President Eusebio Lapenia pledged to talk around the clock until a deal is reached. He said the union doesn’t want to strike, but will if forced.

``What is at stake is to be treated like the rest of the longshore workers in the industry,″ Lapenia said. ``No matter what work you do, you always want parity.″

Tim Ho, chief negotiator for the Hawaii Employers Council, which represents the shippers, refused to comment.

Neither side will discuss salaries, but published reports said the old contract paid Hawaii workers anywhere from $55,000 to $150,000, depending on their job, hours and overtime.

``Why shouldn’t we get what the West Coast got?″ dockworker Leonard Drago said. ``We do the same work.″

Gov. Ben Cayetano has offered to mediate but remains confident a strike will be averted.

The threat of a strike has triggered panic buying of staples like rice, Spam and toilet paper in Hawaii, where 90 percent of goods arrive by ship.

Last week, dockworkers staged a work slowdown that created a backlog of unloaded cargo ships in Honolulu Harbor.

If dockworkers strike, ships that arrive in Hawaii will sit in port without being unloaded. And if the walkout drags on, shipping companies will stop sending vessels on the five-day journey from the West Coast.